Fifa yesterday confirmed the countries who have made bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, with England joined by Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain and Portugal, and the US in applying to stage the event in either 2018 or 2022, while South Korea and Qatar staked a claim to host it in 2022 only.
All 11 candidates had already stated their intention to stage the international game's showpiece event, with the announcement serving as confirmation that Fifa had received their bid registration forms.
"We are very pleased about the fantastic level of interest in our flagship competition, with all initial bidders confirming their candidature," said the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter.
"The diversity and quality of the contenders will make this a very interesting selection process. This shows the importance of the Fifa World Cup as a truly universal event and the global power of this competition to help achieve positive change, in line with our claim: 'For the game. For the world'."
The next stage for the applicants is to submit their bidding agreements by 11 December.
In South Africa, the location of next year's World Cup, the organisers are planning bulk sales and a big internal marketing drive to lift flagging ticket sales for June's Confederations Cup, the test event being held ahead of the 2010 finals.
South Africa's 2010 organising committee yesterday proposed plans to sell group tickets to companies and fan clubs to boost poor sales for the tournament, which is being held from 14 to 28 June. The chief executive officer Danny Jordaan said plans had been approved by Fifa after meetings in Zurich yesterday.
"We want to encourage companies and fan clubs to buy in bulk and we will engage the host cities to run more promotions," he said after making presentations to two separate Fifa meetings. The general problem is that South Africans have a culture of buying tickets at the last moment."
Fifa has received applications for only 200,000 of the 640,000 tickets available for the Confederations Cup, according to officials.
This is despite the event boasting a field that will include World Cup winners Italy, Euro 2008 winners Spain and South American champions Brazil. Jordaan said that the latest figures for 2010 World Cup ticket sales were much more positive. "We now have as many applications for tickets as there are available in the first sales phase," he said.
There are some 700,000 tickets on sale in the first phase. Applications for tickets opened last month and will run until the end this month, after which a ballot in mid-April will determine the allocation.
The procedure has been criticised as too complicated for the South African market. The cheapest World Cup ticket is almost 10 times the price of admission to a domestic Premier Soccer League match. Jordaan said it was a concern that 70 per cent of applications over the internet had come from outside the host country. "If we were to play the World Cup tomorrow, 70 per cent of the spectators would be foreigners. There needs to be more interest from South Africans," he said.
When Germany opened the first phase of its ticket sales for the 2006 finals, some six million applications were received. Earlier this month, the South African government said it was concerned not enough was being done to ensure more local ticket sales.
The World Cup finals are being hosted at 10 venues across South Africa from 11 June to 11 July next year.
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