The top officials around England's 2018 World Cup bid warned Fifa yesterday that they would not force the Premier League to adopt Sepp Blatter's "6+5" player quota just to win the right to host the tournament. Lord Triesman, the Football Association chairman, said the Premier League's success would not be sacrificed in order to accommodate the Fifa president's quota plan.
The 2018 bidding process was launched amid great fanfare at Wembley Stadium yesterday by David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and a host of influential figures from British sport and politics. However, the problem of reconciling Blatter's attempt to curtail the success of the Premier League with winning enough Fifa votes to prevail in December next year goes right to the heart of England's 2018 project.
Blatter is determined to implement a radical "6+5" quota that would restrict Premier League clubs to fielding only five non-Englishmen in starting line-ups. There are serious doubts about whether it would be permitted under European Union law, but the 2018 World Cup bid team know that Blatter's influence among the 24-man Fifa executive committee is too strong to ignore.
While Triesman said he hoped the 2018 World Cup bid would not come down to a question of "6+5" quotas and the Fifa politics surrounding them, he said Blatter's proposals were unworkable. "We will try to work out whether it can be done legally or not, I don't see how it will be done in European law," Triesman said. "Anybody who tries to change European law will find themselves frustrated in the end. We will take an approach in the interests of English football."
The Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, said the 2018 bid would "not do anything that affects the future of the game". He added "We [the Government] are happy to be alongside the Premier League, the Football League and the FA. We need to support the future of the game against horse- trading on the bid."
There can be little doubt that with an impressive 15 prospective host cities already signed up for the bid, and potentially 23 stadiums, the bid committee wants to steer the debate away from Fifa politics. However, they will be aware that Blatter's influence on the 24 votes which will decide the 2018 host in December next year must also be taken into account.
There was great effort to play down the perceived arrogance of the failed 2006 World Cup bid and its "Football's coming home" slogan. The 2018 bid chief executive Andy Anson, who faces competition from seven further bids spread across nine nations, said that was "absolutely not the message". "We have been all over the world and there are many countries who love football and believe they are its 'home'," he added. "We don't want to be accused of arrogance or complacency."
However, Anson did agree that Blatter's politics aside, the 24 voters from Fifa would be expecting a great deal more than just a sound bid from England. "The world of football already knows we can deliver a strong technical bid and they are expecting something more which might well be our legacy of international development."
Rooney was flown to London on his one day off this week and was briefly interviewed by the day's host Adrian Chiles, the BBC Match of the Day 2 presenter, on the effect a World Cup would have on English football. Beckham demonstrated just how valuable a figure he will be to the bid with a polished performance in conversation with Chiles, in which the former captain appeared well-briefed and firmly on-message. Even Brown had to wait his turn until after Rooney and Beckham to address the audience in the Club Wembley suite. The Prime Minister appeared to make a mistake by including Norman Hunter when he name-checked him among the 1966 World Cup winners in attendance. Hunter was not in the XI who beat West Germany on 30 July that year. He was in the 1966 squad but played no part in the tournament and did not receive a winners' medal until the rules were changed two years ago.
To darken Brown's mood further, the presentation also included video testimonials from the Conservative leader David Cameron because Fifa demands that any bid has assurances they will have Government backing in the event of a change of leadership. The desire to show that the often warring factions of English football backed the bid – or as the slogan said "England united, the world invited"– meant that all stakeholders were represented.
The 2018 bid team later apologised for having invited the BNP politician Richard Barnbrook, who is an elected member of the Greater London Assembly. The Premier League chairman Dave Richards and Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney both spoke, the latter getting a dig in when he claimed the Football League was England's "authentic league".
19 months to go: Bid countdown
11 Dec 2018 bid team will have whittled down 23 venues to 16-18 for bid document
14 May Technical bid document submitted to Fifa
July-October Fifa inspection visits to bid countries
Autumn Fifa report on its visits to bid countries
December Hosts for 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals announced
Twelve host cities in successful nation announced, decided in consultation with Fifa
In it to win it: England vs rest of the world
*There are 15 English cities who have expressed an interest in hosting matches. The stadiums are represented in the bidding process by their local authorities, who put their case to the 2018 bid team. Over the 15 cities, 23 stadiums are under consideration.
*All stadiums must have a capacity of at least 40,000; there must be two of 60,000 minimum for the semi-finals and one of 80,000 for the first game and final – Wembley would be used.
The potential venues
*London Wembley, Emirates, Stamford Bridge, Tottenham*, Twickenham
*Liverpool Anfield*, Goodison Park*
*Manchester Old Trafford, Eastlands
*Sheffield Hillsborough, Bramall Lane
*Birmingham Villa Park, St Andrew's*
*Nottingham Nottingham Forest*
*Newcastle St James' Park
*Sunderland Stadium of Light
*Hull KC stadium*
*Leeds Elland Road*
*Derby Pride Park*
*Leicester Walkers Stadium*
*Milton Keynes Stadium:MK*
*Bristol Bristol City*
* Stadiums that may be rebuilt, redeveloped, or enlarged
*England's odds: 11-8
The Rival bidders
*Australia Impressed hosting the Olympics but a third straight southern-hemisphere host unlikely. Odds 4-1
*Spain/Portugal Bid likely to be favoured by South American votes. 4-1
*Russia Politically strong bid from an emerging power in the game. Security worries may dissuade voters. 6-1
*Belgium/Netherlands Success of Euro 2000 may help, but the step up in size may count against them. 14-1
*Mexico Two-time hosts have the experience, but with Brazil the venue for 2014, remain a long shot. 16-1
*United States Amazing venues, and bid enjoys the influential backing of President Barack Obama. 20-1
*Japan Impressed in 2002, but Fifa may opt against giving the country this tournament again so soon. 20-1
*Indonesia Surprise entrants and rank outsiders. 50-1Reuse content