Great Britain and Ireland’s hopes of staging football’s 2030 World Cup have not been torpedoed by the crowd trouble at this year’s European Championship but the countries do face a battle to mount a credible bid following England’s farcical 2018 effort, MPs were told today.
The update on a possible bid came during a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee hearing just 24 hours after the England team were ordered to play a match behind closed doors as punishment for the lawless scenes at July’s Euro 2020 final at Wembley.
“I think there are lessons that need to be learned – the FA has commissioned a review, it’s very serious – but I do not think it’s our bid up in smoke,” said Simon Morton, UK Sport’s chief operating officer.
“It was pretty shocking and horrific. However I don’t think it was reflective of how this country organises big sporting events. I think we have an excellent reputation not only for hosting brilliant events but also for hosting safe and secure events. And I think countries around the world see that.”
The government pledged £2.8m earlier this year to a study examining the feasibility of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland bidding for the 2030 World Cup.
European governing body Uefa must nominate a preferred bidder, and its president Aleksander Ceferin has previously reassured Britain and Ireland regarding the summer’s unrest.
Morton added: “In respect of the bid, the only thing I can say there is the Uefa president, who is of course an important person in the bid process, has gone on the record to say it will have no bearing whatsoever on our bid.”
The feasibility study is examining cost, social and economic impact, infrastructure and the “winnability” of a five-nation bid. A decision is due to be made on whether to progress with a bid in the second quarter of 2022.
Potential 2030 World Cup hosts include a pan-South American bloc featuring Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru; Morocco, possibly in a joint bid with other North African countries; Spain and Portugal; and Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Serbia.
All concerned are anxious to avoid a repeat of 2010 when the English FA’s party, which included Prince William and David Beckham, saw their bid for the 2018 World Cup receive just two of 22 possible votes from Fifa’s executive committee.
Asked if it was “an enormous jump” to go from humiliation to winning, Morton said: “Yes, is the simple answer.”
He added: “The pain of that vote is now 11 years ago. Our view is that now is a reasonable time to reappraise whether it is right to go for that again.
“Fifa has made important reforms to their bidding process. And the proposition we have on the table now is fundamentally different to the one we had for 2018, one nation bidding on its own.”
Previous World Cup bidding processes have been rife with bribery allegations, but UK Sport has been reassured that Fifa’s process is now far more transparent.
“This is now not a vote purely conducted by the 20-man ExCo. It’s now the whole congress that votes, which is a positive move,” said Morton.
“Everyone gets to see who each country has voted for. There is now a far tougher compliance environment in place that Fifa runs in terms of bidders, and there is a lot more transparent and increased technical documentation of assessments. All of those things are positive.”
Committee chair Julian Knight MP questioned whether the English FA, which he called “a basket case”, ought to be forced to reform before being granted government funds with which to bid.
“If government wants to set prerequisites of the FA before it provides financial support into a World Cup bid then it has the opportunity to do that next year,” said Morton.