Cameron attempts to breathe life into World Cup bid

Nigel Morris,Deputy Political Editor
Friday 12 November 2010 01:00

David Cameron is to launch a last-ditch personal attempt to breathe fresh life into England's faltering bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

He even quipped yesterday that he was spending more time on the World Cup campaign than on discussing the global economy at a meeting of international leaders in South Korea.

The Prime Minister will urge his counterparts to throw their weight behind England's campaign and make a final plea for support to leaders of Fifa, football's governing body, when they gather to decide the successful candidate to stage the tournament.

The intervention is a gamble for the Prime Minister as England's chances of success are believed to be fading. But a Downing Street spokesman said: "He wants to offer the strongest possible support for what he thinks is an excellent bid."

The England bid team has grown increasingly pessimistic about its chances of success when the venue is announced in three weeks' time.

Its organisers fear their campaign has been undermined by a backlash within Fifa following British media allegations of corruption in the sport's highest circles.Mr Cameron began his charm offensive yesterday by finding time for talks with Fifa vice-president Chung Mong-joon, who is the president of South Korea's Football Association. The two men met for around 30 minutes at the British ambassador's residence in Seoul.

Before the talks, Mr Cameron joked that he had already told the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, that he was "spending much more time on the World Cup than on the G20".He also raised the subject with President Dmitry Medvedev, adding that he was looking forward to a "good clean fight" to host the tournament with Russia who are now favourites to win the nomination.

Mr Cameron, an occasional Aston Villa fan, plans to make the case for England with other world leaders during the G20 summit today and at next week's Nato summit.The Prime Minister will join football stars including David Beckham to travel to Fifa's headquarters in Zurich ahead of the decision on 2 December.

England was once regarded as the front-runner to secure the tournament, which it last hosted in 1966. But it has been overtaken by Russia as even long-term supporters of the bid swap loyalties. Joint bids have also been submitted by Spain and Portugal and by Belgium and Holland.

A Sunday newspaper investigation last month alleged that two Fifa delegates offered to sell their votes to undercover journalists posing as lobbyists for a consortium of American companies who wanted to win the 2022 World Cup for the United States. The publicity is understood to have irritated many Fifa figures.

A BBC Panorama programme is also investigating claims of corruption in the horse-trading to secure Fifa members' votes, potentially alienating more previous supporters.

The English bid's former leader, Lord Triesman, resigned in May after he was secretly recorded making allegations about rival bids.

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