Could Football be coming home in 2030?

Yesterday the FA announced they were considering a bid to host the 2030 World Cup. It was hardly a surprise and a final decision won’t be made until next year, but it prompts several questions, why are England bidding again after the embarrassment of the 2018 bid? How would it work? and most importantly would they win?

Why bid?

The FA declared back in 2010 they wouldn’t bid again for the World Cup whilst Sepp Blatter was in office. But of course a lot’s changed since 2010, Blatter and his discredited corrupt regime are gone. The recent vote to decide on the 2026 World Cup was a free vote with individual Football Federations given a single vote each and everyone’s vote clearly shown to the watching public there and then, gone is the shady executive committee and the dodgy round after round of voting and ludicrous secrecy.  There’s still plenty wrong with FIFA but in the bidding process at least new broom Gianni Infantino has managed to sweep up.

But the dodgy dealings of FIFA were only part of the problem with England’s 2018 bid. Back in 2010 the FA was run by the hapless Lord Triesman. He gave interviews claiming rival bids were riddled with bribery, ran a shambolic campaign (anyone remember the gift bags incident?) and by the time of the vote many in England were simply disinterested in the bid. The fact Triesman made the headlines again last week with his daft suggestion that England could takeover the 2022 was yet another embarrassing chapter in his involvement with the FA.

Don’t let this man anywhere near the bid!

Compare that to the efficient way Sebastian Coe ran the 2012 Olympic bid, the way the public was so wrapped up in the bid and even with everyhting in its favour, London still required then Prime Minister Tony Blair to arm twist delegates into believing in the their bid. Frankly by comparison the 2018 bid never looked like succeeding.

The Eni Aluko affair showed the FA still has issues of its own with good governance, but the promised ‘bonfire of the blazers’ at least shows good intent, however the FA must learn from past mistakes otherwise they might as well forget the whole business.

What would a 2030 bid look like?

The first question would be are we looking at an England bid or a United Kingdom bid? The expanded 48 team World Cup format now appears to require more than 1 host nation as illustrated by the USA having to share the 2026 tournament with Canada & Mexico. The final 2026 tournament will feature 16 stadiums (10 in the US and 3 each for their junior partners). Like the US, England have more than 16 grounds able to meet the 30,000 capacity stipulation but FIFA generally take a dim view of having more than 1 venue per city. Look at Russia this summer where only Moscow had 2 stadiums in the final 12 and the problem becomes obvious. London probably would have 2 stadiums (Wembley plus either the Emirates or New White Hart Lane) but other cities would be restricted to one venue. That probably means no Etihad, no Stamford Bridge, no London Stadium, No new Everton stadium & probably no Stadium of Light (yes I know Sunderland isn’t in Newcastle!) Suddenly partnering with the other 3 home nations seems more palatable. Another obstacle is FIFA currently require a 2km exclusion zone around the stadiums- something few British Stadiums currently have, a potentially fatal problem in England’s possible bid.

The SFA announced last week they would be interested in being part of a combined Britsh World Cup bid, which overcomes a significant hurdle in a UK bid. The FAW were always onboard and the FAI have announced they’d support the British bid if Northern Ireland were included in it. That however leads to another issue- FIFA have so far backed 3 ways bids, but never a 4 host bid with 4 automatic qualifying nations. Belfast’s Windsor Park is only 18,000 capacity but there is an alternative in the Casement Park which is due for redevelopment, giving it a capacity of 35,000, but Northern Ireland’s involvement would be contentious.

Wales has its house in order with the Liberty Stadium in Swansea and a likely semi-final venue in Cardiff’s Principality Stadium. Scotland would offer Hampden Park in Glasgow, but sticking to the 1 stadium per city rule, that would mean no Celtic Park and no Ibrox. None of Pittodrie, Tannadice Park or Tynecastle are anywhere near 30,000 capacity so either a new stadium would need building or more likely The SRU’s Murrayfield in Edinburgh would be added to the roster. So here’s a complete list of possible venues that would need reducing to 16:

Murrayfield stadium
Would Edinburgh’s Murrayfield be on a combined UK ticket?
Country City/ Area Stadium Alternative Stadium Alternative Stadium 2
England London Wembley
England London White Hart Lane Emirates Stadium Stamford Bridge
England Liverpool Anfield New Everton Ground
England Manchester Old Trafford Etihad
England Tyne & Wear St James Park Stadium of Light Riverside Stadium
England Leeds/ West Yorks Elland Road
England Sheffield/ South Yorks Hillsborough
England Birmingham Villa Park St Andrews
England Leicester King Power
England Southampton St Mary’s
England Brighton Falmer Stadium
England Stoke Bet 365 Arena
England Nottingham/ Derby City Ground Pride Park
England Milton Keynes Stadium MK
England East Anglia Portman Road
Scotland Glasgow Hampden Park
Scotland Edinburgh Murrayfield
Wales Cardiff Principality
Wales Swansea Liberty
Northern Ireland Belfast Casement Park

At a glance plenty of these grounds need an upgrade when viewed in comparison to the grounds we saw this summer in Russia so a World Cup bid wouldn’t be cheap. There’s also the small matter of finding someone to be the figurehead and organiser of the bid, England are not short of legendary players to be on the board- David Beckham and Gary Lineker stand out as obvious candidates but could someone like Richard Scudamore be tempted on board to run the day-to-day?

There’s clearly plenty here for the FA to ponder.

Would we win?

Already on the table are a combined South America bid from Argentina/ Uruguay/ Paraguay and a combined North African bid lead by defeated 2026 candidate Morocco. The 2030 World Cup will be the tournament centenary and football coming home to its birthplace has a nice ring to it. But so does heading back to Uruguay where the first World Cup was held and won by its hosts 100 years previous.

Clearly England winning is not a given although there are many in FIFA who want to have every third tournament held in football’s European epicentre. England would need to ensure the overwhelming majority of UEFA votes are in their corner if they are to succeed, given the likelihood of African nations block voting for Morocco and South American nations inevitably backing their local bid. The preferences of Concacaf and Asia are unknown- although the 4 British Federations all voted for the United bid for 2026.

In terms of infrastructure, when it comes to communications, accommodation, and TV coverage England’s bid should be top class. However plenty of money would need to be spent upgrading Stadia and transport, particularly the infamously bad Penine railways. So if England does bid we need to learn from past mistakes and strengthen our hand if football really is to come home.

64 years on?

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