FA call on Beckham to revive 2018 bid

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The Independent Online

The cost of flying David Beckham to the World Cup draw in South Africa next month has been waved through by the Football Association in a last-ditch attempt to get the most famous footballer in the world to rescue England's faltering bid to host the 2018 tournament.

After a month of crisis which has ended with Lord Triesman, the FA and 2018 bid chairman, radically restructuring his board, he revealed yesterday that the FA have agreed to pay the £40,000 to get Beckham to Cape Town. The 2018 committee, suffering from a £5m shortfall in government funding, recognise that it could be their last hope.

In a damage-limitations exercise in Qatar yesterday, Triesman, who has come in for heavy personal criticism for his role in the bid issued what amounted to an SOS to Beckham to step forward and keep England in the running for 2018. This week Triesman was forced to slim down and make new appointments in the wake of severe doubts about the bid from within his own team, including Lord Coe, about the Labour peer's leadership.

Triesman said: "We have committed ourselves to ensuring not just that he [Beckham] gets there in the full-time slot [to Cape Town] but also that we can look after his security and arrangements. England runs through the guy's bone marrow, he loves the sport, he loves the idea that England can win this. He's a winner, he believes we can win it."

Whether Beckham's presence will sway the members of Fifa's all-powerful executive committee (ExCo) remains doubtful. Their motives for voting for certain countries have always been debatable. Led by the likes of Jack Warner, the Concacaf region president, certain elements of the ExCo seem to have taken a personal dislike to Triesman.

As well as ensuring that the Beckham-effect was used to its maximum potential, Triesman is also fighting for his own career. In words that were clearly chosen to answer criticisms that he is detached and unpopular, Triesman said that he had learned from the chaotic events of last week and promised to change.

He said: "I have reflected very hard on the criticisms that newspapers have made because that inevitably stings you into thinking very hard about what you are doing and how you are doing it. I am not going to grumble about that. In its way it has been a positive thing. I am not going to say it is pleasant and it feels great. But it has made me think about what it is we have to do."

For a man who has bullishly restructured the FA since he became its first independent chairman last year, as well as criticise the Premier League at times, this was quite a departure. "I have listened and I have learned and I have got to a more streamlined approach [on the board]," he said. "If got it wrong then that is an admission. But I thoroughly intend to confound your predictions about whether we can do it [win the right to host the World Cup].

Triesman said that he could not consider resigning from the 2018 board himself because Fifa stipulated that it wanted all domestic football federation chiefs to play a key role in a country's bid. He said: "I have never been told before last weekend that I was so aloof. That came to me as a surprise. I believe I can lead this team in a way that is effective and I am convinced that the chairman of the FA has to play this role."

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