Premier League wanted '39th game' support from FA

The Premier League's reluctance to get fully behind England's 2018 World Cup bid would have changed if Lord Triesman had voiced support for the controversial 39th Game, it was claimed today.

There was criticism of the England bid that they had not harnessed the support of the most popular league in the world.

But Triesman told the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee today however that it was the Premier League who had been slow off the mark - and that it was his opposition to the 39th game, the now-abandoned idea for each club to play an extra match in a foreign country, that was the cause.

He told the MPs: "The Premier League took a very long time to come on board. It was put to me by [league chief executive] Richard Scudamore that if I thought the 39th Game was a good idea they would have come on board much earlier."

Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards did eventually become a bid director before resigning less than a year later, causing a crisis in the bid.

Triesman added: "Sir Dave did come on and did a lot of travelling for the bid which I was very grateful for. When he did resign however he was shaking an already rather shaky machine."

Triesman added that he had been surprised to read that a family company linked to Richards had won a contract from England 2018 to provide bid merchandise.

"I was very surprised. I would expect a declaration of interest by anyone whose business was supplying anything to us, regardless of value," said Triesman.

"That was a guideline in the FA board."

Triesman also said the FA had been bounced into bidding by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"He did not give an ultimatum - he announced if before the FA board had considered it," said the peer.

Mike Lee, formerly communications director of the Premier League, UEFA and London's 2012 Olympic bid, told MPs that England 2018 had failed to learn the lessons of the unsuccessful 2006 bid, or take good practice from London 2012's successful one.

He said mistakes included having a bid chairman who was also FA chairman, not having an independent bid company, appearing arrogant and failing to get across the right messages.

"It was never clear what the overall strategy or compelling message of what England could offer football was," said Lee.

"It sounded very arrogant, that we are the best, we have the most passionate fans - try telling that to people from Brazil and Argentina - and we have the Premier League so we must be the best."

He also said there was no "rush of activity" from the highest levels of Government in supporting the bid in the way Tony Blair helped London's Olympic bid.

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