England World Cup 2030 bid: Government will support FA if they are confident of getting fair shot this time

MATT MAJENDIE
Sorry past, bright future? Prince William and David Beckham were at the forefront of England’s failed bid to host World Cup 2018: Getty Images

The red faces and recriminations are still felt in both Whitehall and through the corridors of the FA over England’s humiliating last attempt to host the World Cup.

In the end, England’s much-lauded bid, backed to the tune of £20million and with support from the likes of then Prime Minister David Cameron and David Beckham, warranted just two votes from Fifa’s 22-member executive committee.

Eight years on, the Government is behind a potential joint bid across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and, for Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, there are no alarm bells ringing about the FA getting into bed with Fifa so soon after the last botched dalliance.

“I think Fifa have changed, certainly enough for the FA to want to go for it,” said Crouch. “They feel there’s a greater transparency in the process and they’ve been given confidence with the recent announcement for the 2026 World Cup [in the United States, Canada and Mexico] for them to consider bidding for 2030.”

For Crouch, the key is that the FA have changed from, as she puts it, being “the bad boys of governance” to getting their own house in order.

“There’s more diversity, more transparency, more accountability that gives me the confidence for me to say that, if you were to go for it, we can start discussions around the financial support for the bid,” she added.

But have Fifa really changed enough from the Sepp Blatter days to a newer and supposedly more transparent era under his successor, Gianni Infantino, especially when the results of an investigation into that failed bid has yet to reach an official conclusion?

“We wouldn’t be rushing to support the FA if the FA themselves didn’t feel that there were better processes in place,” she said. “We’re still waiting for independent investigations into what happened previously.

“The changes brought in at Fifa have been done despite the outcomes that we’re still waiting for. Whether they’ve gone far enough is a question to answer until we’ve had outcome of investigations. If the FA have that confidence, they have our backing.”

Bidding to host the 2030 World Cup finals is seen as the flagship of post-Brexit Britain’s sporting ambitions, a wider strategy of which was unveiled by UK Sport earlier this month.

But is there not a danger when Britain leaves the European Union it could affect the nation’s hopes of hosting major sporting events?

How England’s 2018 bid went so wrong...


England went into the bid process with some grandiose claims - including £750million to be invested in grassroots football projects - but were humiliated in the 2010 vote. The bid team, who were helped by then Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham, received just two out of 22 votes from the FIFA executive committee in the first round, as the World Cup was awarded to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The result left Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore smarting, as he declared afterwards: “It almost feels they’ve got us on standby for when someone suddenly can’t host it.

But on that basis we might never get it.”

Former England captain Alan Shearer said: “It’s like coming off the pitch when you say, ‘I couldn’t have done any more’; we couldn’t have done any more.”

“Why does everything have to come back to Brexit?” asks Crouch. “Sometimes sport can transcend politics. We’ve already got events lined up post-Brexit: a significant number of Euro 2020 Games, for example. And it’s worth pointing out we’re leaving the EU, not Europe itself.”

To highlight the possible effect of Brexit — or, in her eyes, the lack of it — Crouch points to a recent meeting at Le Golf National with the European Tour regarding hosting the 2026 Ryder Cup at which Brexit was not even mentioned.

“As far as I’m concerned, there are other aspects of sport that might be impacted by Brexit but, hopefully, hosting events shouldn’t be one of them,” she said.

For both Crouch and UK Sport, London remains central to the post-Brexit sporting landscape, from the Tour de France to the Athletics World Championships both returning to the capital in the ensuing years.

And London’s various iconic backdrops could play a part in playing host, Crouch citing the previous example of Battersea Power Station in doing so.

“There’s no reason why not,” she said. “And people in London love their sport. How many football clubs do we have across London and how many sporting venues? London has a really important role in this.”