Chancellor confident of World Cup backing
Chancellor Gordon Brown is confident England have the global support required to launch a successful bid to host the 2018 World Cup.
The Football Association's campaign to stage the 2006 tournament proved to be an expensive failure - the bid cost in the region of £10million - after England were dumped out in the first round of voting.
But the Treasury department has spent the past 15 months compiling a 42-page feasibility study which confirms England are 'well-placed' to host the 2018 tournament.
Mr Brown is convinced the lessons have been learned from that episode and he was at Wembley today to confirm the FA will have the Government's full backing to launch another bid.
Mr Brown will re-iterate that political support when he meets with Sepp Blatter, president of football's world governing body FIFA, over the next few weeks.
With London hosting the 2012 Olympics, Mr Brown believes a successful bid for the World Cup six years later would herald the 'greatest sporting decade for our country'.
He said: 'The last time England bid we didn't get the support from the rest of the world we wanted. I think we will this time.
'I am going around the world at the moment. I have been in Asia, Europe and America and I think there is great support for England.
'I think we are better placed than last time. The lessons are that you have got to start early, which we are doing, and you have got to be really prepared. We will be even better prepared than last time.
'It is a matter for the football authorities but the Government is now saying early on: `We are ready and we will do everything to support (a bid), both in this country and also around the world, making it our mission to ask other countries to support the England bid.'
'We have had (FIFA executive committee member) Franz Beckenbauer already saying he supports the England bid and I think we will see countries starting to say they like the idea of coming to England.
'We are pretty well placed to win it. Just think if in 2012 we have the Olympics and then the 2018 World Cup. What a sporting decade to look forward to, the best sporting decade for our country.'
Sports minister Richard Caborn learned from the successful 2012 Olympic bid how important steadfast political support can be.
He said: 'We have arranged for the president of FIFA to come and see Gordon in the next few weeks and I think it's important to show that any bid has solid political support. That is exactly what we did with the Olympics.
'It is important to do the groundwork now, to show we are all on the same songsheet and that we would be very privileged to host the World Cup.'
FIFA are yet to confirm the World Cup will return to Europe after visiting South Africa in 2010 and south America four years later.
But if it does the FA confirmed they will give 'very serious consideration to a bid'.
Chief executive Brian Barwick welcomed the Government's support and said: 'We have the stadiums, the infrastructure, a multi-cultural society and a passion for the game that few countries can match.
'In addition, every major European football nation (apart from England) has hosted the World Cup since 1966.'
The feasibility study concluded England already has six stadia capable of hosting a World Cup - Wembley, Old Trafford, the Emirates Stadium, St James' Park, City of Manchester Stadium and Villa Park.
It also concludes England has suitable transport links and the experience to deal with security and policing challenges.
The cost of that would not be insignificant but, unlike the Olympics, the Government is not solely responsible for funding the tournament.
Mr Brown did not give details of proposed government spending but he said: 'We are pretty confident about the funding of this.
'Much of the cost in this case is coming through professional football itself. That is how World Cups in the past have been done.'
Mr Brown was accused by shadow sports minister Hugh Robertson of using the announcement as a PR stunt, given the FA have not announced their intentions.
Others have accused the Chancellor of attempting to win over English voters or of trying to secure a legacy even before he has been officially confirmed as the next Prime Minister.
Mr Brown insisted work had to begin early and declared a successful bid would make this 'the greatest sporting nation in the world'.
He added: 'It is about the whole country.To combine the Olympics in 2012 and the World Cup in 2018 - (it would be) the greatest sporting decade. Every part of the country would benefit from it.'
Despite referring to England as 'we', Mr Brown insisted his heart will always lie with Scotland if they qualify for the tournament.
He said: 'I will be supporting all the United Kingdom teams that are involved. And if there is a Scotland-England final - well, you never know! - I will support Scotland. 'But I am not one of those people who think that if England do badly Scotland benefits, it is the other way around. I think we all benefit if teams right across the United Kingdomn do well.'