Thursday, December 31, 1998 Published at 15:06 GMT
The race is on
President Mandela (left) is backing South Africa's bid
There are seven runners for one of the most important races in world sport - the race to host the 2006 World Cup.
The seven countries now have until the end of July to produce detailed proposals for consideration, with FIFA's executive committee due to decide who should host the tournament in March 2000.
There has been concern as to how current problems within the Football Association could affect the English bid.
Graham Kelly resigned as chief executive and chairman Keith Wiseman's position does not look secure following controversy over a £3.2m grant to the Welsh FA.
FA problems 'not an issue'
Alec McGivan, leader of the English bid, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I can understand at the moment why people think this is a major issue. I honestly don't think in 15 months time, when FIFA make the decision, it will be an issue at all."
He added: "Long before then we will have a new chief executive and maybe the chairmanship will have changed hands.
"But these aren't really central issues for FIFA's decision on the World Cup. They want to choose the best venue with the best facilities, and we think we are that venue."
Europe's governing body, UEFA, wanted a single bid from the continent and a war of words between England and Germany continues.
But McGivan said: "There has been evidence of a lack of enthusiasm among the German community, and indeed the German government in the past.
"I think one of the things that the Germans have openly envied has been the support we have had from our own British government for the bid we are putting forward."
African host favoured
One obstacle England, Germany and Brazil all have to clear is FIFA president Sepp Blatter's stated preference for the tournament to go to Africa for the first time.
McGivan acknowledged the strong "emotional case" which the African nations can make.
He said, however: "The question is when will an African candidate be ready to take on what is a huge logistical exercise? FIFA have been at great pains to stress that there are very strict terms and conditions which have to be met by any would-be host."
England has top-class stadia and believes Euro 96 showed the country has the organisational skills and infrastructure needed to support the world's biggest sporting event.
But Blatter received the Order of Good Hope from South African president Nelson Mandela in November for his part in their re-admission to world football.
His position afterwards was clear. "I am fighting for the World Cup of 2006 to come to Africa," he said.
England - and Germany and Brazil - now have 15 months to change his mind.