World Cup bid team out to wow Blatter at No 10

Fifa chief will meet the Prime Minister as England turns up the heat in race to host the 2018 tournament
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Fifa president Sepp Blatter will pay a visit to Downing Street today to meet Prime Minister David Cameron as England's bid for the 2018 World Cup gears up for the final phase of the contest. Blatter met Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the summer but has now accepted an invitation to meet Cameron face to face at Number 10.

The Fifa president will watch a presentation on England's bid and will meet Government ministers as well as several football figures and bid ambassadors. Fifa's 24-man executive committee will vote on the 2018 and 2022 hosts on 2 December.

England 2018 chairman Geoff Thompson said: "The Prime Minister spoke with president Blatter shortly after taking office to reiterate the British Government's support for the bid and to invite him to Downing Street. We are delighted the Fifa president has accepted and we are honoured that he and Fifa general secretary Jérôme Valcke will be visiting England so close to the decision in December.

"We will take this opportunity to provide first-hand evidence of England's passion for the game and confirm our intention to produce a commercially successful Fifa World Cup that creates a new global fund to provide benefits across the world for many generations to come. It will be a tremendous show of support from across the country and we are grateful to the Prime Minister for allowing this meeting to take place."

Thompson said the meeting would be used to emphasise legacy plans that are key elements of the England bid.

Blatter will also meet London mayor Boris Johnson before returning to Zurich tonight.

Meanwhile, World Cup bid ambassador Paul Elliott hopes the unseen community work undertaken by England's professional stars will help secure the 2018 tournament. In what is increasingly looking like a straight fight between England and Russia – currently the marginal favourites – Elliott realises the minor details could be of huge significance.

With the stadiums, transport infrastructure and hotels all in place, England's bid team are continuing to drum home the message of how important football is to the people of this country.

"Football is part of the air we breathe," he said, "not just on a national level, but a global one too. These players are role models. The media are not always interested in positive headlines, so a lot of their work is unseen. But, through the PFA, football makes a difference to people's lives."

Elliott estimates that thousands of community visits are organised each year, with players themselves undertaking many more privately. The PFA alone invests £6m annually in such schemes, as each area of the country locks onto their own particular heroes.

"People understand the power of football to make change; to influence, to direct, to challenge, to stimulate, to motivate," said the former Chelsea star.

"You couldn't even talk about anti-racism when I started playing. It was a fixture of the game. Now, through education, leadership and the implementation of law, football, and beyond that, society as a whole, has changed completely. That is just one example. Barriers are knocked over all the time."

Once all the politicking is complete and all the submissions have been made, 24 men, led by Fifa president Sepp Blatter, will sit in judgement.

Decision day is Thursday 2 December, when an announcement from Zurich could turn boyhood dreams into reality. "This bid has made me feel like a child again," said Elliott.

"One thing is clearly evident – the passion. I felt it. Fifa felt it on their inspection visit. Football is part of the fabric of this country. Hopefully that will be a very important component in delivering the 2018 World Cup."

Comments