President Blatter learns of England’s expected legacy
© AFP

With 50 days to go before FIFA’s Executive Committee votes on who will host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups™, Joseph S. Blatter visited Downing Street to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron.

President Blatter and Secretary-General Jerome Valcke were guests of honour in the House of Commons for the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, in which Mr. Cameron went head-to-head with the new leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband for the first time. Mr. Cameron then moved from the House of Commons to Number 10 to welcome President Blatter into his home, where he was introduced to members of the England bid team by David Dein. A presentation on England's bid was shown, which featured David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, Didier Drogba and Asamoah Gyan.

The meeting was followed by a press conference in which Mr. Cameron said that if the bid is successful England is “ready, willing and able to deliver the best World Cup ever and the best legacy ever.” He also stressed England’s bid had the ‘highest level of government backing’ and that the government was working to strengthen the bid on a day-to-day basis.

“Football is our national game,” said Mr. Cameron. “It’s the glue that binds the country together. It unites people from all backgrounds, all ages and all walks of life. I hope you see just how passionate England is about this bid and how much of an honour it would be if we were chosen to host the World Cup”.

Coming to England is always a very good experience.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter

Mr. Cameron argued that England is well prepared to host the FIFA World Cup with stadiums, transport links and infrastructure in place, but added England’s strength lay in ”its people” who had been instrumental in kicking racism right out of football. The Prime Minister also said that if the bid is successful, England 2018’s ’Football United’ global fund for football will aim to match FIFA’s current investment in grassroots football and social development worldwide by 2018.

“Coming to England is always a very good experience,” said President Blatter. “For me it means coming back to the country where football was first organised and where football has taken a leading role in the world. The Football Association here in London was the first football association and now we have 208 associations in FIFA. That means England is the Motherland of Football. The country has given so much to football, and England is going to carry on giving much to football.

England can organise the World Cup tomorrow, there is no doubt that England can organise the World Cup – that’s not a problem. But what you are trying to do is to present a World Cup for the whole world and leave a legacy through football, and this is impressive”, the President added. “I have been visiting and meeting the Heads of State of all the bidders for 2018 and 2022 and the only thing I can say at this time is that I wish you good luck."

Members of the England 2018 team, including FIFA vice-president and bid Chairman Geoff Thompson, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt, Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson, and other supporters and ambassadors of England’s bid, such as Team Manager Fabio Capello were also present during the visit to Downing Street. Later in the day, President Blatter was welcomed to London’s City Hall for a meeting with the city’s Mayor Boris Johnson, before returning to Zurich.