Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Could Host the World Cup Tomorrow, Says Sports Minister

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Could Host the World Cup Tomorrow, Says Sports Minister

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Cecil Chief Political Correspondent

ENGLAND could hold the World Cup tomorrow, sports minister Hugh Robertson declared today at the start of a four-day visit by Fifa officials.

Mr Robertson said the country already had the football grounds needed to host the competition in 2018. "The great thing about our bid is all the infrastructure is there, it's all ready," he told BBC radio.

"You could technically hold the World Cup here tomorrow. We believe, technically, we have the very best bid."

He rejected claims that David Cameron should have broken off from his holiday to meet the Fifa delegation, as Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin did to support his country's bid to host the tournament. Mr Robertson said that the Fifa visit was a technical one and that the Prime Minister and David Beckham would both play key roles at later stages of England's bid.

Twelve countries are bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The winners will be announced on December 2, with Russia seen as a leading challenger against England for 2018.

Mr Robertson denied that transport was a problem in England, especially given the short distances between grounds compared with a country such as South Africa.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was today due to welcome the sixman Fifa inspection team, led by Chile Football Federation president Harold Mayne-Nicholls, at Downing Street on the first day of their visit.

They were being joined by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Mr Robertson and an England 2018 delegation led by chairman Geoff Thompson.

The inspection team was later due to meet Fabio Capello at Wembley. They will also travel to grounds and other facilities in Manchester, Sunderland and Newcastle.

Mr Clegg said: "I am delighted to welcome the Fifa inspection team to Downing Street and to have the chance to communicate the Government's 100 per cent backing for the world-class bid which the England 2018 bid team has put together." The English bid claims it will raise billions of pounds and be of economic benefit to both the UK and Fifa.

England 2018 chief executive Andy Anson said: "We are looking forward to bringing our proposals to life by providing the inspectors with opportunities to experience some of our facilities first-hand and to take part in a range of presentations involving football people, from greats of the game through to community coaches and volunteers. …

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