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Sport: Football World Cup 2018

Volume 720: debated on Monday 26 July 2010


Asked By

My Lords, the Government wholeheartedly support the Football Association’s bid for the 2018 World Cup. In his first week in office, the Prime Minister discussed the bid with the president of FIFA, the international federation of association football. Both the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport and the Minister for Sport and Olympics went to South Africa to discuss the bid with FIFA executive committee members and to demonstrate the level of government support.

My Lords, it gives me pleasure to thank the Minister for that positive and encouraging answer. He will be aware of the PricewaterhouseCoopers study published in May, which demonstrated that the potential benefit to the economy of a successful bid and of staging the World Cup in the summer of 2018 would be of the order of £3.2 billion. Can he clarify two points on his Answer? First, do the Government stand unequivocally by the £300 million of financial guarantees that were entered into by their predecessor in December and which were signed at the same time by the then Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Liberal Democrats? Secondly, when the FIFA inspection team comes to Britain at the end of August, will it have the opportunity to meet members of the Government at the highest level and be given every encouragement?

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord’s involvement in the world of football. First, I am able to confirm that the coalition Government have accepted the position agreed by the previous Government, as indeed the party leaders signed up to last autumn. Secondly, I understand that the inspection team is likely to come in late August and on that occasion will meet the Deputy Prime Minister.

What discussions has my noble friend had with the Premier League, to extract some of the obscene money that goes into that league rather than having to depend entirely on the taxpayer to fund a 2018 bid?

My Lords, I have had no discussions with anybody to do with the Premier League. I think that is above my pay grade, as it were. I am sorry but I cannot help any further about that. Of course, this bid is very different from the Olympics, where there is an Olympic stadium to build and all that that means, in that there are already football stadiums up and down the country—it is a truly national event. They are throughout the land, many in the north of England, and if the bid succeeds in 2018 it will be something for the country as a whole and not just for London.

We firmly support and applaud the work by the previous Administration and by this one. This is something that the country really desires and we all want it to be successful. But clearly the key player here is going to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer, so my question to the Minister is whether he is convinced and can reassure us that the Treasury is absolutely on side on this issue, because without its support the bid is doomed.

My Lords, obtaining a bid of this nature is a tricky process in that the Government are asked for a range of guarantees, and FIFA has asked for details all to be dealt with in confidence. These are to do with visas, work permits, tax treatment, security, foreign exchange operations, intellectual property and telecommunications. The bid book, as it is called, has been submitted. The Government of the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, made this country’s best offer in May, in order that this country is in the best place to get this World Cup.

My Lords, can the Minister answer the question put by his noble friend? Have any discussions taken place with the Premier League and is it possible that money might come from sources other than the taxpayer?

My Lords, I mentioned that I am not aware of the particular discussions with the Premier League. The bidder is the Football Association; there was a suggestion in earlier times that it would be looking for government money to assist it with the bid. That did not turn out to be the case, in that it got resources from elsewhere.

My Lords, will my noble friend give us an assurance that, in bidding for the football World Cup, we are learning from our successes in the previous tournaments and games that we have achieved and from prior failures that we have had? Can he tell us the exact structure of the bidding for all future large sporting events?

My Lords, there have been lessons learned from an unsuccessful bid for the 2006 World Cup. There was then an in-depth inquiry by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the other place back in 2001. That was analysed by both the Football Association and the Government and fed into the development of the bid structure and what has happened since. Winning the 2012 Olympics was, obviously, a great success story and account was taken of that in going forward for this bid. The major feature is that there is a stand-alone bid company, which has put in the bid. Football may be a national game but it is not a nationalised game. The bid company has done that work on behalf of the Football Association.

Is the Minister aware that FIFA did not pay any tax on the profits it made from the recent world championships—in which England apparently did not take part? Can he assure the House that that will not be repeated should we be successful in this bid?

My Lords, I cannot confirm that. It is a very tricky line, the whole basis of getting this bid. As I indicated, on the one hand one has to give all this information; on the other, the FIFA people say that Governments should not interfere with the game of football.