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May 18, 2009

England kick off World Cup campaign

David Beckham, Prince William and Prime Minister Gordon Brown helped England kick off their campaign to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 at a launch party at Wembley Stadium on Monday.

Football Association chief Lord Triesman, who is also the chairman of the bid, emphasised the quality of England's stadia, infrastructure and the country's cultural mix in his opening speech.

Triesman said: "We in England would be truly honoured to host the World Cup and welcome the world. We have first-class grounds. We've got good transport links, domestically and internationally.

"A World Cup in England would be a truly memorable event - not only for our nation but for every nation.

"We'd extend a wonderful welcome to players and fans from across the world. And they would enjoy our diverse culture - one that means England would provide a home-from-home welcome for every fan and player."

England's main rivals to host the World Cup are fellow Europeans Spain and Russia, while the USA and Australia are also bidding. But bid vice-president David Beckham, who is one of the most recognised footballers in the world, claimed England could offer a passion none of the other hosts could provide.

Beckham said: "Every time that I played with some of the biggest players in the world - players like (Zinedine) Zidane and Ronaldo - one of the first questions that they all asked me is what is it like playing in England and how much they like the passion that the fans show.

"There is no bigger support than our fans. The passion that's shown in our country every time someone either puts an England shirt on or any time they play for their club, there are full stadiums everywhere,'' he said.

"The passion does not just stop at Premiership level, it goes from Sunday League level and it goes all the way through every league that we've got up to the Premiership.''

With FIFA's 24-man executive committee due to vote on the host countries for both the 2018 and 2022 tournaments in December next year Prime Minister Gordon Brown also threw his weight behind England's bid.

"It's right for England to host the World Cup. We have a tradition that's second to none, some of our clubs compete successfully with the rest of the world.

"We are home to some of the best in world football and I'm here today for one reason - I want to assure everybody that the Government will do everything it can so that we record a famous victory in this campaign.''

"If we can secure the football World Cup it will be the greatest sporting decade our country has ever seen. To host the Olympics and World Cup in one decade will be a mark of how important sport is to our country.

"I promise to make it my personal mission to gather support from around the world.''

Monday's high-profile event at Wembley will be followed by a meeting for representatives from 15 cities - Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Sunderland - who are all hoping to host matches hould England's bid be successful.

Sports minister Andy Burnham believes the FA's bid would receive a huge shot in the arm should the RFU be successful in bringing the 2015 Rugby World Cup to England.

The Government views both World Cup bids as facets of the so-called "decade of sport", which already includes the 2012 London Olympic Games and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Burnham believes the Rugby World Cup would highlight England's ability to host major events.

"One reinforces the other," said Burnham. "There could be no better preparation. We will be in a heightened state of readiness to make sure the Rugby World Cup 2015 runs smoothly.

"And that stands us in good stead for 2018. With the logistics, the security and infrastructure all being there and working it enables the FA to really show what English football can do for football in the rest of the world, instead of panicking about our own (preparations).

"We can really reach out and support football around the world as the RFU are doing with their bid. What could unfold over the next 10 years could take sport in our country to the next level."

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