Beckham helps England launch World Cup bid

By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - David Beckham said Monday that being part of the bidding team that brought the World Cup to England for the first time in more than 50 years would be as big a success as all the medals he had won in his career.

England launched its bid to stage the 2018 World Cup finals with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney and Beckham among the speakers at Wembley Stadium where England won the World Cup when it staged the tournament for the only time in 1966.

Beckham, who has won 109 caps for England and is a bid vice-president, was asked by reporters whether winning the right to stage the event would be as great as any of the medals he had won.

"Of course. It would be up there with winning and the success I've had in my career. To be part of a successful bid, like I was with the Olympics, would be a huge honour."

The Prime Minister said the British Government supported the bid, which, if successful, could be part of an unprecedented decade of sport for Britain.

London is hosting the 2012 Olympics, Glasgow the 2014 Commonwealth Games and England is hosting the 2019 Cricket World Cup and bidding for the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup.

"Holding this festival of football here would inspire football and sporting fans up and down the country and across the world and cap what looks to be an exceptional decade of sport for Britain," Brown said. "This government is fully committed to this bid."

His views were endorsed by leaders of the opposition parties on videotape and by Prince William, the President of the FA, in a recorded message.

Fifteen cities are aiming to earn the right to stage matches including soccer outposts such as Hull, Bristol and Milton Keynes as well as traditional strongholds including Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sunderland.

Wembley Stadium would stage the opening match and the final with Old Trafford, Arsenal's Emirates Stadium and Villa Park also on the list of venues.

Twickenham, the home of rugby union and the only other stadium in the country besides Wembley with an 80,000-plus capacity, is also being considered.

FIFA will decide the host nation in December 2010 with the other candidates being Russia, Netherlands & Belgium, Spain & Portugal, Mexico, Indonesia, the United States, Australia and Japan. At the same time, they will announce the hosts of the 2022 World Cup, which could come to England if FIFA decide to award 2018 to a non-European venue.

South Africa are staging the event next year with Brazil hosting it in 2014.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

Article Published: 18/05/2009