Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed the Government is hoping to bring the World Cup to the UK for the first time since 1966 and will pledge £2.8million in funding for a joint-bid with Ireland.
Buoyed by the success of the coronavirus vaccine rollout – the UK hit the milestone of vaccinating 20million people last weekend – Mr Johnson had already offered to host every European Championship game in Britain this summer, with the EU’s own vaccine drive lagging way behind.
Supporters are expected to return to stadiums from May 17 as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap to a normal life, and Mr Johnson said he would happy for grounds to be used for not only the semi-finals and final of the Euros in July, as already scheduled, but the entire competition.
And the World Cup bid funding will be made a formal part of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget on Wednesday. If successful it would see matches played in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Boris Johnson (above) has offered to host every European Championship game this summer
The Prime Minister also confirmed backing for a UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup
Echoing Baddiel and Skinner’s iconic song Three Lions, which became the soundtrack to Euro 96, the last major international football tournament hosted in England, Johnson tweeted: ‘Let’s bring football home in 2030. I would love for the home of football to host the 2030 World Cup, and it would be a wonderful thing for the whole country to savour.
‘We want to do much more to encourage sport post-pandemic and see a bonanza of football in the years ahead.’
He was replying to a tweet from the Football Association which said: ‘We’ve joined the @ScottishFA, @FAWales, @OfficialIrishFA and @FAIreland in welcoming the government’s pledge of £2.8million towards a potential bid for the 2030 @FIFAWorldCup.’
England won the World Cup for the first and only time to date when it last hosted the tournament in 1966. Their Euro 96 team inspired the nation, despite losing on penalties to Germany in the semi-finals.
The last English bid to host the World Cup ended in acrimony and embarrassment when losing the tender for the 2018 edition to Russia, despite rolling out the likes of Prince William and David Beckham to impress FIFA dignitaries. Corruption on a massive scale was later exposed at FIFA, with many executives, including former president Sepp Blatter, now banned from football.
The Euro 2020 finals was set to be held across 12 cities but the format is expected to change
Wembley is already due to stage seven matches, including both semi-finals and the final
Johnson has since offered up Britain’s stadiums for all of the remaining fixtures, so fans could see more than just the likes of England’s Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho (above) in action
Euro 2020 – which has been delayed 12 months until the summer of 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic – was set to be staged across 12 host cities in 12 different countries.
However, it is believed the UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin favours scrapping that plan for a single host due to the current restriction amid the pandemic.
As it stands, Wembley is due to stage seven matches including both semi-finals and the final. However, Johnson has since offered to host all of the remaining fixtures.
The Prime Minister told The Sun that tournament could come to the UK this summer as the country surges ahead of the EU in the race to dish out vaccines.
‘We are hosting the Euros. We are hosting the semis and the final,’ he said.
‘If they want any other matches that they want hosted, we’re certainly on for that but at the moment that’s where we are with UEFA.’
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has also told UEFA that progress on vaccinations means the UK will have crowds back in stadiums before most of Europe – with the end of May their target.
England have not hosted the World Cup since 1966, when they won it for the only time to date
Euro 96 was the last major international football tournament held in the UK, when the England team inspired the nation but heartbreakingly lost out to Germany in the semi-finals
Speaking about their upcoming 2030 World Cup bid, Johnson said: ‘We are very, very keen to bring football home in 2030. I do think it’s the right place.
‘It’s the home of football, it’s the right time. It will be an absolutely wonderful thing for the country.’
Sunak will invest £2.8m to promote the UK and Ireland’s pitch to FIFA to host the World Cup in nine years’ time.
The UK and Ireland will face competition from Morocco – who may receive help from Algeria and Tunisia – and Uruguay, who will join forces with Argentina, Paraguay and Chile.
Romania, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia are also planning a bid, while it is likely Spain and Portugal will propose a joint-bid.
Cameroon, Egypt, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have also shown interest in presenting a bid to UEFA, but have not yet confirmed their plans.