British PM Gordon Brown says England’s stadium infrastructure is set up to stage an “incredible tournament.” (Getty Images)

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown vows to make it his “personal mission” to gather worldwide support for England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Hosting the World Cup Finals would “cap what looks to be an exceptional decade of sport for Britain.”

Speaking at the star-studded launch of England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup at London’s Wembley Stadium Monday, Brown said it would be “an absolute privilege” to host the football World Cup following the 2012 Olympics. Last week, the Rugby Football Union also launched a bid to host the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“I know this country, with its first class stadiums and tremendous passion for football, would host an incredible tournament,” said Brown.

The prime minister played down a possible funding row, stating that the World Cup bid has the Government’s “full commitment.”

The Football Association is seeking to augment its $15.3 million campaign fund with $7.7 million of government money. But negotiations with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have been complicated by budget cuts and concern in Westminster over providing public funds to such a cash-rich sport.

Brown was joined by bid Vice President David Beckham, Manchester United star Wayne Rooney, England manager Fabio Capello and a host of other English football dignitaries. They watched a 40-minute presentation and were joined by 50 local schoolchildren, whose presence signified the bid’s ambition to enthuse the nation.

“To have the World Cup in your own country is the dream of any player,” said Beckham.

“I know firsthand the passion of our fans and they would provide an incredible atmosphere at every game. A World Cup in England would inspire a generation of younger players and capture the imagination of everyone.”

FA and bid chairman Lord Triesman emphasized England’s existing football infrastructure and its inherent cultural and historical ties with the game.

“We have first class grounds.

David Beckham says the World Cup would capture the imagination of the nation. (Getty Images)

We’ve got good transport links, domestically and internationally. We’ve got excellent accommodation,” he said. “A World Cup in England would be a truly memorable event – not only for our nation but for every nation.”

“Inside and outside our grounds, we’d share with them our love of the game and our sense of fair play. And they would enjoy our diverse culture – one that means England would provide a home-from-home welcome for every fan and player.”

But earlier in the day, Andy Anson, chief executive of England’s bid, sounded a note of caution. He said that his team must learn from the failures of the bid to host the 2006 World Cup.

“The tone of this campaign has to be different,” he told BBC Radio FiveLive. “We will certainly not be saying that football is coming home. It was an arrogant slogan.”

Stadium Upgrades
Anson also pointed to the improvements in existing stadium infrastructure since England lost out to Germany in June 2001 in the race to stage the last World Cup.

Since then Wembley Stadium has been completely rebuilt, Arsenal have moved into the state-of-the-art Emirates Stadium and Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium has been extended to seat 76,000 fans. Liverpool, Everton, Nottingham Forest and Portsmouth all have advanced plans to build new stadia before 2018.

“We have a strong start point,” said Anson. “Football is the passion within this country – millions of people watch and play every single week… I cannot imagine anything more exciting than in nine years from now having a World Cup here.”

FA President Prince William said in a video address that should England’s bid prove successful it “would provide a footballing legacy that would reach well beyond our small islands.”

Fourteen English cities and one town have already stated an interest in hosting World Cup matches. These include such traditional football hotbeds as Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

But more unlikely venues – such as Bristol, better known as a rugby city, and Milton Keynes, a maligned new town famed for its concrete cows – have also stated an interest. The FA’s commitment for a geographical

David beckham, Andy Anson, PM Gordon Brown, Lord Triesman and Wayne Rooney visit with local children during England’s 2018/2022 World Cup Bid launch at Wembley Stadium. (Getty Images)

spread could work in their benefit.

Privately the FA have acknowledged the Spain-Portugal bid as their main rival.
Securing the support of FIFA’s eight European Executive members remains the key to success and the bid team’s main priority. The second part of their strategy is to neutralize Spain-Portugal’s likely support from Latin America with a combination of African, Caribbean and Asian votes.

Lobbying is well under way. Lord Triesman and his Premier League counterpart, Sir Dave Richards, have recently returned from a trip to Egypt and the FA have long cultivated links with southern Africa and the Caribbean.

Qatar, Russia and Indonesia Ready Bids

On Sunday, Qatar unveiled plans to host the 2022 World Cup, saying that hosting the tournament in the region would promote understanding between the Arab and western worlds. “Qatar 2022 is a bid on behalf of the whole region,” Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, ruler of the country and president of the Qatar 2022 committee, said in a statement.

Qatar has previously hosted the 2006 Asian Games and will host the Asian Cup in 2011. With South Korea, it is the only nation to bid exclusively for the 2022 World Cup; the nine other contenders have made dual bids.

A fortnight ago Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave his government’s approval to the Russian Soccer Federation’s bid for the 2018 World Cup.

Days later Nugraha Besoes, general secretary of Indonesia’s soccer federation, insisted that his country’s bid was “no joke.”

With reporting from James Corbett in London.

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