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Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2007, 19:53 GMT
World Cup own goal for chancellor
Gordon Brown with the ball with which England won the 1966 World Cup
Mr Brown said he was supporting England's bid for 2018
Chancellor Gordon Brown has provoked a storm by appearing to back England to host and win the football World Cup in 2018 - and not his native Scotland.

Mr Brown said he would like "the host" to win such a competition, adding that "of course, Scotland will do well".

SNP leader Alex Salmond said the comments made Mr Brown look "ridiculous in Scotland and insincere in England".

Later Mr Brown said in a statement: "My ideal scenario is that Scotland play England in the final and Scotland win."

The MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath added: "But if we don't qualify, or we go out in an earlier round, then I would transfer my allegiance to the other home nation, England."

Mr Salmond said: "Gordon Brown is fast becoming a figure of fun in these matters.

"First he said that Paul Gascoigne's goal against Scotland in Euro 96 was his favourite football moment, then he supported a British Olympic team and now he seems to have completely lost the plot."

It was reported on Friday that Mr Brown would meet Fifa president Sepp Blatter next month.

The meeting has been set up by Sports Minister Richard Caborn for 28 February with a bid for the World Cup at the top of the agenda.

Mr Brown, who is likely to become prime minister when Tony Blair stands down later this year, has firmly attached himself to an England bid.

It will be great. Fifty years after we had it before. It is the right time for England to have it
Gordon Brown

The Fifa president's influence will be a major factor in the success of any bid and he said last year he would welcome a bid from England as "the home of football" for 2018.

Mr Brown and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell last year launched a joint feasibility study into a bid.

That study is due to be published shortly and will be strongly supportive of the Football Association bidding to host the 2018 finals.

The chancellor is understood to view a successful World Cup bid as the sort of publicity coup which Mr Blair has enjoyed following London's success in landing the 2012 Olympics.

Questioned in Mumbai by the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson, Mr Brown said: "It will be great. Fifty years after we had it before. It is the right time for England to have it.

"It will mean we would have a most magnificent sporting decade with the Olympics in 2012 and the World Cup in 2018.

"All the effort to win England's place for the World Cup is going to happen in the next year or two."

Asked then who he wanted to win the World Cup, Mr Brown replied: "I think the host." When asked "Not Scotland?", the Chancellor replied: "Well, of course, I want Scotland to do well, but let's just see how it all works out."




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