Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Football Association



  2.1  The FA publicly declared an interest in staging the World Cup 2006 the day after the completion of the European Championships in 1996. The timing was significant. The FA in conjunction with UEFA had just overseen the most successful European Championships ever staged. Eight top English club venues had been on display, 1.2 million tickets sold and the championships had been watched by 7 billion television viewers world-wide. Two hundred and fifty thousand foreign visitors had spent approximately £125 million visiting the UK. The championships had been well organised and trouble free, the atmosphere unforgettable. English football after all its problems in the 1980s was back in business on the international stage.

  2.2  Thus it was following this success of EURO '96 that the moment seemed right for English football to once again seek to host the World Cup. There had in fact already been discussions about staging the World Cup in the early 1990s at several meetings of The FA Executive Committee. But at that time it was decided a World Cup bid would be premature and that it was better to concentrate on staging the European Championships. The FA therefore gave way to France for World Cup 1998 and set its sights on the possibility of hosting World Cup 2006, but only if EURO '96 went well. When EURO '96 exceeded all expectations, The FA did not hesitate to put itself forward for the World Cup, the day after the EURO '96 Final.

  2.3  The chief reasons for bidding lay in the potential strength of England's case. It was not just that EURO '96 had gone extraordinarily well. £600 million had already been invested in the finest set of modern football stadia anywhere in the world. More than that, a new Wembley was to be built which would be the jewel in England's crown. In addition English football not only had a great heritage associated with being the home of the game but a modern day atmosphere appreciated not only by those attending games but by millions of television viewers around the world. The Premier League had become the most watched football league anywhere and the influx of foreign stars had made English league football the talk of the world. By 2006 England would not have hosted the tournament for 40 years. Add to these footballing points the fact that England has always been a very popular tourist destination and the case for England putting itself forward for the World Cup was irresistible. Moreover, if, with all these advantages, England were not to bid for 2006 and another European nation, almost certainly Germany, were to bid and win, England could not be sure of getting another chance for a very long time to come, perhaps as long as 24 years.

  2.4   Of course in the summer of 1996 it was recognised that there would be stiff competition for FIFA's World Tournament. It is inconceivable in the modern age that any country would have a free run. It was also recognised that there was likely to be a strong bid from another European country; namely Germany. But there was no sign in the summer of 1996 of any so called Gentlemen's Agreement[3][4]. No records of The Football Association referred to any such discussions with the Germans in the early '90s, as the Germans subsequently claimed. In addition, while England announced its Bid in July 1996, it was not until the end of January 1997 that anyone in Europe raised the subject of the so-called agreement. Indeed in the autumn of 1996 the English and German FAs met together on two separate public occasions and on both of these they mutually recognised their "friendly rivalry" for World Cup 2006 without mention of any agreement.

  2.5  So throughout the rest of 1996 the early planning for a bid was carried out with confidence and real optimism that England had a serious chance of winning. Naturally it came as a blow when at the end of January 1997 UEFA put its weight behind the Germans in claiming the existence of an agreement which, no one at The FA knew anything about. Of course at this stage it would have been possible to have withdrawn from the race, but given the spurious nature of the German argument, as perceived by The Football Association, no one felt it would be right to back down. Indeed, there can be little doubt that if England had not persisted in its Bid for 2006 The FA would have been heavily criticised at home for its lack of ambition and financial will at a time when the game in England had never been richer or more popular.

  2.6   The reality was that even with the difficulties within Europe, it was perfectly possible for the English Bid to win. Clearly it was preferable to gain some votes within Europe, but there was no reason at any stage throughout the bidding process to assume that one or two European votes, in addition to that of David Will (Scotland), were not achievable. In any case, sixteen other votes existed and while the lack of majority support in Europe would be a hindrance, England had every reason to believe that it could do well amongst the rest of the world. Indeed in the final analysis, England was the only bid to achieve votes from three different confederations out of the six in world football. The potential for world-wide support was always there, even though the various avenues for achieving that slipped away from England in the final weeks of the Campaign.

3   The Football Association's view of the Gentlemen's Agreement, as outlined to UEFA in April 1997, is at Appendix 6*. Later in the bid process, Sir Bert Millichip, the former Chairman of The Football Association, issued a statement, the text of which is at Appendix 7*. Back

4   Not printed. Back

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