Hugh Robertson: A 'perfect' bid and a force for global good

With weeks to convince Fifa that England should host the 2018 football tournament, the Government is throwing everyone forward

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The race to host the 2018 World Cup continues apace as the 2 December decision day gets ever closer.

On Wednesday, football's world governing body Fifa will publish the technical reports following the inspection visits of bidding countries earlier this year.

These reports will show the inspection team's views on many aspects of the bids. They will demonstrate the vast amounts of work that bidding nations have put in to show Fifa why they should be selected, and the positive attributes of the respective bids.

It is these attributes that we hope Fifa executive committee (ExCo) members will focus on when they come to voting next month.

England's bid is an excellent one, and the Government is determined to do all we can to help bring the World Cup to this country. We would put on a fantastic festival of football with fans from around the world welcomed with open arms by our diverse communities. We have the stadiums in place, and our passion for football would mean an electrifying atmosphere, with capacity crowds at every match.

England is a country that is easy to get to and get around. We already have the infrastructure in place to transport hundreds of thousands of fans to matches every weekend in the season. There are also plans to make all local public transport free for ticketed supporters at a World Cup hosted in England. We also have a wealth of experience in putting on major sporting events and it is experience we are going to have more of following the 2012 Olympic Games.

These are arguments that Fifa noted when the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, the Secretary of State for Culture, Jeremy Hunt, and I met the inspection team in August, and when Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, met the Prime Minister, David Cameron, Jeremy and me at No 10 last month.

The inspection team said, before departing our shores, that many aspects of our bid were "perfect", and Blatter also acknowledged that a World Cup would be a success if England were selected as the host nation.

A World Cup here would be a winner economically – both for Fifa and the country. A PricewaterhouseCoopers estimate for the 2018 bid company put the economic benefits to the country of hosting a World Cup at around £3bn.

The commercial certainty for Fifa would also mean the realisation of a genuine global legacy for football. This legacy plan is at the heart of England's 2018 bid. Football United, a new global football fund, would be hugely boosted by hosting a World Cup in England.

Already, our football authorities such as the FA, Premier League and the Football Foundation run football outreach, social and health programmes, not only in this county but around the world, but Football United would help us to deliver such programmes on a worldwide scale never seen before.

It is this potential for using football as a force for good globally that is being presented to the 24 Fifa ExCo members. It may be a cliché, but it is true. Football is the international language. It binds people together across the continents. Go to any far-flung corner of the planet and they know all about David Beckham. Youngsters worldwide can reel off Premier League player names: they're all out there, kicking a ball around, emulating their heroes at Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea.

At Downing Street, Sepp Blatter got a taste of Football United when he saw a moving film that shows how this fund will directly benefit the countries and regions that the ExCo members represent. It will be used to change the lives of young people through football. That is a powerful message that we hope Fifa voters take notice of.

Much has been written about the state of the England bid in recent weeks. But the fact is we are still in the race. After all, there is still three weeks to go and a lot can happen in that time.

Speculation has been rife about who is the favourite but it is genuinely too difficult to call. The time when you want to be the favourite, though, is on voting day. Let us not forget that 2012 Olympics decision in Singapore in 2005. Many were unconvinced that London was going to win, but win it we did. Let's hope that history repeats itself on 2 December.

The Government's support is unwavering for England's 2018 bid. Within his first two days in office, the Prime Minister spoke to Sepp Blatter to underline that support, and while at the G20 in Seoul last week, he made time to meet Fifa vice-president Chung Mong-joon, to echo that message once more.

The Prime Minister, Jeremy Hunt and I will be out in Zurich for the final round of lobbying ahead of the decision, to press England's case and we will be completely focused on pushing the positive attributes of our bid.

The competition undoubtedly is going to be tough. But now is the time that we want the whole country to get behind England's bid and show Fifa what putting on the biggest football show on earth would mean not only to us, but as a benefit in the lives of people all over the world.

Hugh Robertson is Minister for Sport and the Olympics

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