Thawing of relationship between Fifa and FA

 

The Football Association and Fifa today moved to heal the rift between the organisations that developed after England's failed 2018 World Cup bid.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter today visited the new national football centre at St George's Park and announced a 500,000 US dollar (£315,000) grant from the world body's Goal project.

That marked evidence of a thawing in the previously frosty relations - it is only 18 months since FA chairman David Bernstein stood on the podium at the Fifa Congress and unsuccessfully called for the unopposed election of Blatter to be postponed to allow for a rival to come forward.

Blatter said the catalyst had come at the London Olympics where he had been hugely impressed by the football tournament at the Games.

He told reporters: "What we witness today is not only a co-operation at the footballing level, it is friendship. Don't go back to the past.

"The big catalyst was the Olympic football tournament, witnessed by more than two million people, more than any other sport.

"When there are human beings, from time to time relations are not as they should be.

"But when you are able then to bring everybody back to the same level and this has been done now with Fifa and the FA we are very happy to participate with the creation of this wonderful St George's Park."

Blatter insisted there was no doubt England could host a World Cup in the future.

He added: "They are able to host a World Cup - nobody doubted the fact. They can have a World Cup in England for sure with all these stadia and what they have shown now with the Olympics.

"It is showing to the world they are able to organise a World Cup.

"We have had two million spectators and in the World Cup we will have three million but we will have bigger stadia also, but they can do it. They are able to do it - definitely.

"But the elections for World Cup is an election which is made by an elective panel and you don't know where the votes are going because it is a secret ballot. But in the future we will see what will happen."

The FA and Fifa also signed a memorandum of understanding, following similar agreements between the world body and the Spanish and German FAs, agreeing to share skills and knowledge with Fifa member associations. The FA will also fund bursaries for nine promising international coaches to study for the FA International Licence course under a new scheme.

FA chairman Bernstein said Blatter's visit reflected a watershed moment in better relations between the two organisations.

Bernstein said: "Absolutely. If you look back to 2010 and the difficulties of that year and the World Cup bid, then move forward to the Fifa Congress, which was quite difficult though I continue to believe we did the right thing, and you see the developments since then and the warmth in the relationships today - it shows real, considerable progress.

"I'm really very pleased. At the time of greatest difficulty, I said we had to stay inside the Fifa tent. There's no point being outside it. We've stayed in the tent and we're progressing really well.

"I had a meeting with [Uefa president] Michel Platini in Nyon yesterday. It was another very positive meeting, there was a wide agenda and relationships with Uefa - which have always been pretty strong - are very good indeed. Hence us getting a second Champions League final in three years.

"I'm very proud of the progress we've made on those relationships, they've come a long way."

Bernstein said Fifa reforms were going in the right direction but were still some way off being completed.

He added: "The proof of the pudding remains in the eating. Things appear to be moving forward but we're not there yet. We need to see further evidence. We were impressed at what we heard at the last Fifa Congress and things continue to move forward. It's a journey that's definitely not finished."

PA

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