England weighs World Cup bid – but only if Blatter goes
Fifa president Sepp Blatter is an implacable obstacle, but if he is replaced England may bid for 2026 tournament
Once bitten but not twice shy for England, that's the message from Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, who says he is giving serious consideration to the idea of bidding for the 2026 World Cup.
Five years ago England launched a high-profile bid for the 2018 tournament, only to lose out to Russia in a controversial selection process mired in allegations of corruption.
Though a subsequent Fifa-organised investigation into that bid, and also the 2022 World Cup that went to Qatar, cleared Russia of any wrongdoing, the process damaged relations between the FA and Fifa president Sepp Blatter to such a degree that Dyke knows England would only stand a chance of getting the 2026 tournament if Blatter is deposed.
That might happen on May 29 when Fifa members vote for a new president. The 79-year-old Blatter, who has been in his post since 1998, is seeking a fifth term of office but he faces strong competition from Jordanian Fifa vice president, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, former world footballer of the year Luís Figo and the Dutch FA president Michael van Praag. Whoever is elected president will oversee the bids for the 2026 tournament, which takes place in 2017.
According to BBC Sport, the appointment of Englishman David Gill (the former Manchester United chief executive) to Fifa's executive committee " could prove influential" to any FA decision regarding a bid. "If David can assure us there's a proper system and it's fair then we could be persuaded," said Dyke. "But at the moment the policy is straightforward – we don't bid while Mr Blatter's there."
Dyke and Blatter have been loggerheads from practically the first moment the former head of the BBC took up his position at the FA in 2013.
When Fifa released its findings into the 2018 bidding process last November, Dyke impugned the integrity of the organisation, saying: "I don't think it is a straight organisation and hasn't been for many years."
But even if Blatter is toppled in May, Dyke acknowledges that any future FA bid will need to win over a sceptical public and press, not to mention the necessary public figures needed to back a bid. In 2010 David Beckham and Prince William lent their very public support, but after the fallout from that experience neither is likely to be keen to go through the same rigmarole.
"You have to get an awful lot of people onside and that's not going to be easy in England now because a lot of people got badly scarred in the process last time," admitted Dyke. "To make a bid you've got to get whoever is the government onside, and we don't know who that is yet because they have to underwrite it."