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Monday, June 15, 1998 Published at 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK

Sport: Football

Banks says 2006 bid on the line

Tony Banks fears for England's 2006 bid

England's hopes of hosting the World Cup in 2006 could he hurt if English fans continue the violence in Marseille.

Sports Minister Tony Banks said of the trouble: "All this is certainly not going to do [the bid] any good.

"But I have asked Fifa to judge us with what they see on the pitch and the majority of England fans who have been well-behaved."

[ image: England's 2006 bid has government backing]
England's 2006 bid has government backing
UK Prime Minster Tony Blair also conceded that the trouble could harm England's bid to host the 2006 tournament.

He said: "None of this helps, does it? It is important that it stops now and that these people realise they undermine the whole country."

Fifa spokesman Keith Cooper said: "We don't see why a few dozen mindless perverts should put in danger a candidacy which is still in its infancy."

England and Germany are the frontrunners to host the 2006 tournament. The appointment last Monday of Sepp Blatter as Fifa president was seen as a positive sign for England chances.

After support for Mr Blatter's presidential bid from the English FA, his backing for the English World Cup bid looks likely when campaigning begins in earnest later this year.

Return to respectability

But, despite the announcement by Fifa that England would not be ejected from this year's World Cup, it is feared that the hooliganism could wreck England's carefully prepared track back to football respectability.

After a six-year European ban for English clubs following the Heysel stadium disaster, the successful Euro 96 tournament hosted in England was seen as the end of the nation's off-pitch problems.

But with the recent violence, despite extensive efforts by the British and French authorities, England's 2006 bid is likely to have suffered a setback.

Mr Banks, speaking as he placed a bet on England to win the World Cup, branded the display by England fans "disgraceful", and said a "drunken minority" was too blame.

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