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Onside for England 2018

Mihir Bose | 21:02 UK time, Monday, 18 May 2009

Successful bids for high-profile sporting events run on several tracks.

A bid must carry their domestic audience but in the process not alienate the overseas voters who will decide the outcome.

And since the international voters of sports organisations have diverse, even conflicting interests, a winning campaign can never be a one size fits all variety.

England's bid for the 2018 World Cup has made a start in that direction, right on message with little talk of football coming home.

Launched in Wembley Stadium's evocative Bobby Moore room, and with many of the former England captain's fellow 1966 World Cup winning squad present, the temptation to trot out the old cry of how this country gave football to the world and why this gives it a divine right to stage the tournament, more so as by 2018 it will more than 50 years since it was last held here, must have been very strong.

Thankfully the urge was resisted..

Curiously, the only person not on message was Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who kept insisting football would be coming home.
David Beckham and Gary Lineker

The bid team know only too well that talk of football coming home makes many round the world think this is back to the old arrogant England that helped sink the bid for the 2006 World Cup.

But then things have moved on since those dismal days, not least the 2012 Olympics team's success in 2005.

How much that has changed the mood was evident at Wembley on Monday.

Gone was the old Millwall hair shirt British bid teams seemed to habitually wear. Haunted by failures they seemed to take a perverse pleasure in saying: the world hates us but we don't care.

Children from local schools were brought to Wembley, reminding me of the school kids from the East End of London who formed part of the 2012 presentation in Singapore in 2005 and the powerful role they played in convincing the International Olympic Committee the bid should come to London not Paris.

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The kids clustered round David Beckham and Gary Lineker at the feet of the Bobby Moore statue underlined the aspirations of those who may play for England come 2018 and certainly created the right images for the bid.

But there were things at the launch which were more like English football having a spot of navel gazing.

The slogan "England United, the world invited", sounds good but it was clear that this was meant to refer to the various factions of the English football world talking to each other.

So we had Sir David Richards, chairman of the Premier League, Manchester United chief executive David Gill and Lord Brian Mawhinney, chairman of the Football League all on the stage at once.

All the vice-presidents of the bid were there to show that English football is now a band of brothers.

Bobby Moore statue

This still did not stop Lord Mawhinney from reminding everyone that the Football League is the oldest league in the world - you should have seen Dave Richards' face as he said that.

And then there is the question of who leads the bid. Sepp Blatter, President of Fifa, asked recently who is England's Franz Beckenbauer? David Beckham has been promoted as the face of the bid but he is no Beckenbauer and has a long way to became a Seb Coe, the charismatic leader of the 2012 bid who so brilliantly combined athleticism with political guile.

Fair enough the launch was aimed at the domestic audience and with 19 months to go, there is time to fine tune, after all Coe emerged as 2012 bid leader only a year after the 2012 bid was launched.

However, we should not under-estimate the obstacles that need to be overcome if England is to win.

Many in world football believe 2018, after tournaments in South Africa and Brazil, should come back to Europe.

But that does not necessarily mean England. It could be Russia, it could be the joint Spain-Portugal bid. With Europe having eight votes on the 24-man Fifa executive anyone with European backing stands a strong chance, but England first has to get votes from outside Europe to convince Europeans it is the continent's strongest candidate.

England also has to decide which of its two major European rivals are the strongest.

Most in the bid team believe it is Spain-Portugal, some feel it could be Russia.

The process of sorting out the European vote means wooing voters from Asia and Africa. That will start in earnest in two weeks time when the FA Cup final is held.

But it could also mean a deal with the USA. Let them have 2022 provided they back England for 2018.

One FA insider told me, "Fifa feels with 2018 in England and 2022 in USA could earn the world governing body another billion".

That, more than the children or the passion for the game, could prove England's strongest calling card and one that may impress the hard-boiled men on the Fifa executive a great deal..


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