Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 24 News List

England wants to host the 2018 World Cup


Backed by the key support of Treasury chief Gordon Brown, the government launched a feasibility study Friday into the possibility of bidding for the 2018 World Cup.

"It's about time it came back to us. I believe we've got a very, very good chance of winning this," Brown said in an interview with GMTV. "It is a great opportunity for us to be the sporting nation of the world."

The feasibility study, which will be overseen by the Treasury and Department of Media, Culture and Sport, is similar to the one conducted before Britain's successful bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

England's Football Association said it won't decide on whether to bid until late 2006 at the earliest.

"Any successful World Cup bid needs government support, as we saw with the 2012 Olympic success," FA chief executive Brian Barwick said. "If the 2018 World Cup comes to Europe, we will be giving very serious consideration to making a bid."

England captain David Beckham also supported a World Cup bid, citing the "hysteria and patriotism" of English fans.

"We have such a great and passionate country on the football side of things," said Beckham, who will be 43 in 2018. "People have to realize competitions are huge when they are held in our country."

England last hosted the World Cup in 1966, which is also the last time it won the competition. It hosted the 1996 European Championship, but failed in a bid to host the 2006 championship, which will be held in Germany.

David Will, a FIFA vice president, said England had an "extremely good chance" of getting the World Cup, particularly after successfully tackling the hooligan problem that marred the 2000 European Championship.

"There is a huge difference in the perception of England in FIFA now," said Will, who is Scottish. "Their standing on the international scene has absolutely soared."

Bids for the 2018 host country will submitted in 2010, with the vote in 2012.

Brown's support is crucial as he is widely expected to succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister.

"You've got great facilities, great interest in sport, people love coming to Britain, we're becoming a great sporting center," Brown said. "The World Cup would be the icing on top of the cake."

"It's a decision for the Football Association but we want to do everything we can, like we did with the Olympics, to support it," said Brown, who is Scottish.

South Africa will host the 2010 event, with the 2014 championship expected to be held in Brazil.

"If we are to win the right to stage the World Cup, we will need to demonstrate the same rigor as we did with the Olympics," said Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, a strong campaigner for London's Olympic bid.

"We will have to meet the four key tests of affordability, deliverability, legacy and winnability. That's why this study is so important."

Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat trick for England in the 1966 final, said he was "thrilled to bits" about the decision.

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