World Cup 2018: the race is on

August 2, 2007

The World Cup Trophy on display before last years final in Berlin. Shaun Best / ReutersWith the preliminary draw for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa still four months away and the ink barely dry on Brazil’s bid to host the event four years later, the race to stage soccer’s greatest show in 2018 is already hotting up.

The South Americans delivered their 900-page plans for hosting the finals in 2014 at FIFA’s headquarters in Switzerland on Tuesday, but since they are the only bidders, the focus has now switched to 2018.

FIFA is not due to decide on who will host the finals in 11 years’ time until 2012 at the earliest.

But such is the hunger to be awarded the World Cup, which generates billions of euros and dollars in revenue from sponsorship, television advertising and tourism and has the potential to leave an ever-lasting social and economic legacy, a number of nations have already laid claim for 2018.

Before FIFA can even contemplate making a shortlist, a bitter battle of continents must first take place. The continental destination of the 2018 finals is far from certain as FIFA have not yet fixed their rotational policy that far into the future and could decide to scrap it.

Europe is desperately lobbying against the United States, China and Australia, with UEFA President Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer, who steered Germany’s successful bid for 2006, already putting pressure on  their good friend FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

The jewel in Europe’s argument is England’s bid, backed by a determined government which has already secured the 2012 Olympics and has a huge appetite for bringing soccer’s greatest tournament back to the sport’s birthplace for the first time since 1966.

But even if Europe is successful, Benelux (the triple bid of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands), Italy and Spain have already declared their intent to be in the final shake-up along with the English. The battle is only going to get hotter.

Darren Ennis, Brussels

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