|England World Cup Bid Still in Strong Position - Alec McGivan|
We are 24 hours away from knowing which nation will win the bid to host the 2018 World Cup after allegations put forward in the BBC Panorama documentary raised fears over England's bid chances. The 22 Fifa members will decide in Zurich, Switzerland tomorrow afternoon. England have made bids to stage the tournament on a number of occasions – including the 2006 World Cup which was rewarded to Germany. Alec McGivan was a major part of that bid and gives us his thoughts on how the bid teams will be feeling ahead of the final decision.
“So this is the exciting bit. This week will see the culmination of years of hard work. Every bid team going for 2018 or 2022 will have been clocking up the air miles, carrying out endless presentations and undertaking lobbying for the 24 Fifa Executive members.
For the England 2018 bid team they know there are only hours to go before they'll either be national heroes or taking the stick from those seeking explanations about why they failed. This is the type of tension politicians feel on the eve of a knife-edge election. So much effort has been made and so much is at stake.
The general mood in the media doesn't feel too positive about England's chances. But even in the post Panorama frenzy, they are a lot better than for our last bid for 2006. A key legacy of the 2006 bid was the creation in 1997 of the FA's Overseas Development Programme which showed our commitment to supporting the development of the game in other parts of the world. Having run for 13 years the programme has been a great asset to this latest bid.
This time round, there are two other particular differences. Firstly this bid is not suffering the albatross we had around our necks from the infamous 'Gentleman's Agreement' that supposedly had committed Europe to Germany. It is rather ironic that recently a great fuss has been made about collusion and secret deals. Yet it was just such a deal that was our main downfall in 2006.
Secondly, England now, at last, has its own member on the Fifa Executive in Geoff Thompson, the former FA Chairman. This is important not only because it guarantees a vote but more significantly Geoff Thompson can lobby colleagues and even do so in-between the rounds of voting that will take place on Thursday. We are not the only bid to be represented in the room but last time England wasn't there and that made us look weak. What has changed fundamentally is that we now have more clout in football's corridors of power.
So England 2018 has a stronger hand to play. The question is how well have they played that hand and can they end with a flourish? If they do have ground to make up, they've very little time left. But clearly they must feel they're in with a decent chance, otherwise I doubt they'd be parading the Prime Minister in Zurich, alongside David Beckham and Prince William.
It's difficult to tell how much impact Prime Ministers and Princes have. But they certainly add importance and glitz to the whole occasion even if everyone is doing much the same thing. Fifa of course loves all the attention. World Cup bidding is when football royalty in the form of the Fifa Executive members meets real life royalty.
The task for England 2018 in the time that is left, is to pin down for certain (or as certain as anything is in this game) it's first preferences. This is vital to get past the first round of voting and to avoid early elimination.
The big question then is what happens to the second preferences, the votes of those whose favoured candidate gets knocked out. Most assume Holland and Belgium will be the first to go. What happens to their votes could be critical in whether England have enough to be in the final two.
The bid team will know the various possible routes to victory. They will also have a view about whether they stand a better chance of beating Russia or Spain/Portugal in the final play off. What they won't know is whether everyone is being totally honest and clear about their intention. The 'undecided's' may give very similar signs of hope to more than one bid. Lots of calculations will be made. By the end of Thursday afternoon we will know which ones were right.”
Former England Bid Director 2006
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