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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK

Sport: Football

England's bid for the big time

A redeveloped Wembley is the centrepiece of England's bid

The Football Association is confident its bid for the 2006 World Cup will be accepted by the sport's governing body, Fifa.

Sir Bobby Charlton: "We have everything in place"
The underlying argument behind the England campaign is that - unlike some of its rivals - the country is ready to stage the tournament now.

Over the weeks and months of the bidding process, the FA plans to focus on six major strands of its campaign.

1. Football heritage

[ image: The 1966 World Cup win is the highlight of England's footballing history]
The 1966 World Cup win is the highlight of England's footballing history
The masterminds behind the bid are determined to tap into the sentiment within soccer's international community.

Much is being made of England's widely accepted status as the "home of football".

The professional game was born in England with the formation of the FA in 1863 and the sport is now more popular than ever, with the booming Premiership atracting top players from around the world.

The inference is that, unlike France 98, where the host nation only became passionate about the tournament once their own team had reached the latter stages, the whole of England would be geared up for the event.

2. Euro 96

[ image: Dutch fans endulge in some colourful supporting during Euro 96]
Dutch fans endulge in some colourful supporting during Euro 96
South Africa may be Fifa president Sepp Blatter's choice for 2006, but the FA argument is that when it comes to staging major tournaments they are an unknown quantity.

England, on the other hand, hosted the 1996 European Championships - second only to World Cups for sheer size - to widespread acclaim.

Crowd trouble was at a minimum, ticketing procedures were efficient and the transport and communications infrastructure held up under great pressure.

The FA stance is simple: "We've done it before. We'll do it again.

3. Stadia

[ image: Old Trafford is now England's largest club ground]
Old Trafford is now England's largest club ground
England's football grounds have been transformed since the Taylor report, which followed the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

The image of ageing, tatty arena with thousands crammed onto the terraces, which dominated the domestic game for most of its history, is now long gone.

Every Premiership club now boasts an all-seater stadium and the FA is putting great store in famous grounds, such as Old Trafford, Highbury, Anfield and Villa Park, that have been overhauled to rank alongside the best in Europe.

Unlike France last year, England offers the World Cup at least 10 stadia with a capacity of more than 40,000.

4. Wembley redevelopment

[ image: The new Wembley will provide a new landmark in north London]
The new Wembley will provide a new landmark in north London
Of all English grounds, Wembley stands apart.

Arguably the most famous football stadium in the world, it has long been a mecca for followers of the sport.

But for years now the north London ground has been falling into a state of disrepair, with fans complaining about the view of the pitch, their distance from the action and facilities within the stadium.

The success of the Stade de France at the last World Cup proved how important it is to have a brand new stadium.

Sir Norman Foster has produced a radical steel and glass design for a new Wembley, which will cost £475m and will see the replacement of the famous twin towers with four sky-scraping masts.

5. Crowd atmosphere

[ image: England fans have largely shrugged off their hooligan image]
England fans have largely shrugged off their hooligan image
In the past, the spectre of hooliganism threatened England's chances of hosting major football tournaments.

But the so-called "English disease" of the 1970s and '80s is - despite the occasional high-profile incident - no longer the widespread social problem it once was.

Indeed, the bid team are now using the crowds, perched unusually close to the pitch, as a selling point.

They contrast the situation in English grounds, which no longer have fences, with that in many parts of Europe, including 2006 rivals Germany, where hooliganism is treated with a heavy security presence.

6. Tourism

The World Cup bid is not just about football.

Sporting arguments may be primary, but the FA is keen to emphasise to Fifa delegates that the country offers visitors an unrivalled extent of cultural events and historic sites.

And, using London as an obvious base, supporters will find it easier to travel throughout a compact island than they would in any of the other bidding nations.

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