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2018 World Cup

Caborn: Russia main rivals to England 2018 bid

November 25, 2009
By Harry Harris, Football Correspondent

England's 2018 World Cup bid ambassador Richard Caborn MP has called for total unity among the bid team and revealed to ESPN Soccernet that Russia are England's main rivals to host the tournament.

Richard Caborn
GettyImagesRichard Caborn believes Russia are England's main rivals to host the 2019 World Cup.

Caborn is Prime Minister Gordon's Brown envoy on the bid team and helped select the team's senior members. The former Sports Minister believes Russia are breathing down England's neck in the race to host the World Cup and the English need a unifying presence - in the form of international striker-turned-TV presenter Gary Lineker - to steer the bid back on course.

"Everyone wants to win the bid. No one wants to win it more than I do," Caborn told ESPN Soccernet. "If it means drawing a line under all the internal squabbling, letting bygones be bygones, and for people to bite the bullet a little bit, then we should all do so for the good of the bid.

"Otherwise, if we don't all come together, our rivals will use it to their advantage to try to show the world that we shouldn't stage the World Cup in 2018, and I don't want that to happen.

"From what I hear, at the highest level I am told there is not much support for Spain, that Australia are outsiders, but that Russian are the real threat to England.

"The Russians are showing a unified front. They are playing hard on the fact that they have never staged a World Cup tournament before, and that if they did it would develop football in the entire Eastern Bloc.

"The reasons they are putting forward are similar to the ones behind South Africa's successful bid, and they are being very pro-active in what they are planning for grassroots football on the back of winning the bid.

"To stop them, we have to show FIFA that we have the best bid, that we are all behind it, and if there have been problems that we have overcome them."

Caborn has been invited onto local radio in Sheffield on Thursday morning, when he will be backing Sheffield's nomination to be one of the host cities for the World Cup.

Caborn has been one of the outspoken critics of the FA's handling of England 2018 bid board and, having been ousted from the board meetings, even as an observer, he has more reason than most to criticise members of the team. But instead of continuing the fall-out, he is making suggestions to help win the bid.

"When Seb Coe (ambassador to the successful 2012 London Olympic Games bid) was called in for the Olympics, he made a major impact, and I think Gary Lineker can do the same," Caborn said. "He can be football's Seb Coe in this bid. He is a communicator, and I know he would show interest despite all his commitments because I went to the trouble of taking some soundings some time ago.

"Sir Bobby Charlton fronted the 2006 bid that failed, and I think we need a modern-day Sir Bobby, and Gary Lineker is made for the job. He would help unify the bid, as he is popular with the media and would be a popular choice.

"Despite all that has been going on behind the scenes, if David Triesman walked through my door tomorrow, I would welcome him and tell him I would continue to do everything I can to help him win the bid, but that he has got to get the bid right."

On Tuesday, board member Sir Dave Richards resigned and caused another reason for FIFA to wonder what is going on behind the scenes of England's bid.

But Caborn, who knows Richards well, told ESPN Soccernet: "It ended up that Dave did not have a job with other appointments being made, and he resigned. I could go into graphic detail, but the point is that the FA need to be more inclusive. Most importantly, though, we must all back this bid.

"I can tell you everyone is 101% trying to win the bid. We just all need to come together to find a way of working together. It is time for everything else to cease."