The House of Commons hosted Culture, Media and Sport questions yesterday.
Andrew Mackay, Bracknell MP and one of David Cameron’s right hand men, asked about the possibility of England hosting the World Cup. Would such a move be popular? The 2012 Olympic Games are not currently universally so.
"I warmly support the bid. Does the Secretary of State agree that in this very deep world recession the strongest case that we have to put at the next meeting with FIFA representatives is that we already have the infrastructure and ability to take on the games? In the present financial circumstances, FIFA would be ill advised to take a chance on a country that does not have the facilities already available.
Andy Burnham: The right hon. Gentleman makes a solid point, and I very much agree with him. FIFA is taking the World cup to South Africa and then to south America; I think it would be in everyone’s interest to have a World cup in 2018 that can do so much to reach out around the world. He is right that, because of our football grounds infrastructure, unlike others we can spend time working with other countries through our status as host nation. That is one of the compelling aspects of our bid. It feels to me that this is the right time for the country to get the FIFA World cup—not because we deserve it or because it is our turn, but because we can do so much more to enhance football around the world."
Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed the front bench’s support:
"This is a new question. Given the good will towards the bid from both sides of the House, does the Secretary of State think it appropriate that nearly half the members of the bid board are from the Labour party? I know that he will be keen to maintain cross-party support, so will he make urgent representations to resolve the issue so that a potentially great sporting success is not compromised by party politics?
Andy Burnham: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and I hope that he is not trying to make a party political issue out of the bid, because the strength of our Olympic bid was its cross-party nature. Might I point it out to him that there are figures linked to the bid who represent both political parties? The recent announcement that Lord Coe accepted an invitation to join the board is welcome. Party politics really should not play a part; this should be a bid that represents all opinion, all football supporters and, indeed, all people who love sport in this country. I am confident that the balance on the board properly reflects the interest in sport throughout the country."
I used to work at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, as a speechwriter for Seb Coe. I remain a supporter of the Games, as I believe that this country should be able to stage great events – and the World Cup is certainly one of those too.
What is crucial, of course, is that public money is spent wisely. The media often confuses the budget for the Games themselves – which is privately financed – with broader infrastructure and regeneration costs. And it does make sense to build first-class facilities which will endure rather than tin sheds. However, I am uncomfortable with the cost of some the venues.
Do readers support a bid to host the World Cup? Arguably we are even better placed to stage that tournament, having as we do lots of superb stadia and a love for the game. Dare we dream that we could win the trophy once again?!