Boost for England's 2018 World Cup bid as FIFA want European host
Published 12:17 19/02/10 By Martin Lipton
England's hopes of landing the 2018 World Cup received a major boost last night as it emerged FIFA bosses are arm-twisting to ensure the tournament goes to Europe.
While President Sepp Blatter will not order the non-European bidders to withdraw from the race, the FIFA chief has cut an unofficial deal with UEFA head Michel Platini that will see the other would-be hosts choosing to battle for the 2022 tournament.
Should the USA, Australia and Japan stay in the race - South Korea, Indonesia and Qatar are only bidding for 2022 - they will find themselves frozen out and not given any backing by the FIFA High Command, damaging their chances of being serious contenders for the second tournament.
It effectively leaves England in a three-horse race with Russia and the joint bid from Spain and Portugal - the proposal from Holland and Belgium is a rank outsider - when the votes are cast by the 24 members of FIFA's executive committee in December.
And with the guarantee of a European winner set in stone, it means securing the lion's share of UEFA's eight votes will be less important than building a broad coalition including Africa, Asia and the CONCACAF region.
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke hinted at the deal as he explained: "There will be no decision and we will not ask that the 2018 World Cup should be in Europe or for the bidding rules to be changed.
"But up to the day before the vote, it could become the case that only the European bidders are asking to host 2018 and the non-European ones for 2022."
With expensive tournaments in South Africa this summer and Brazil in 2014, FIFA need a safe financial cash cow for 2018 and Blatter also suggested he had reached agreement with Platini, adding: "The problems that could have been in the air between FIFA and UEFA no longer exist.
"We are working hand in hand to deal with the problems of football. Europe has the best players, the biggest clubs and of course the media.
"Football has an impact on society but it also has a very important economic impact."
England's bid team, headed by chief executive Andy Anson and FA chairman Lord Triesman, have worked hard on building relationships with the non-European voters. African has four votes, Asia four and CONCACAF - North and Central America and the Caribbean - three and can now start to trade support blocks.
Blatter also promised that the introduction of goalline technology was back on the FIFA agenda, although he has ruled out the use of video replays and will not introduce any new system ahead of the World Cup this summer.
The International FA Board - of which England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland represent half the eight members - will see presentations of both the Kairos system, which will see a chip inserted in the ball, and the Hawkeye system used in tennis and cricket.
Blatter added: "It is not a case of me and Michel Platini being stubborn. We need to see a system which is accurate but which must also be immediate."
The Swiss also confirmed he will stand for re-election for a fourth term as FIFA President next year, after bitter rival Mohammed Bin Hammam, from Qatar, signaled he will challenge Blatter.
"I'm still here and I hope I'm still here in 2011," said Blatter. "As I've said, I've not finished my mission. If the Congress allows, I will be at its disposal."
Valcke announced that ticket prices had been slashed for this summer for South African fans, in a bid to ensure there are no half-empty stadia at the tournament.
The general secretary said 2.1million of the total 2.9m tickets had been sold, guaranteeing FIFA could not lose money, with England's opener against the USA already a sell-out.
Valcke acknowledged the danger of more tickets ending up on the black market but said: "The black market can be a good thing because it means the event is working and there is a demand for tickets."