British and Irish World Cup bid still alive despite ‘unruly’ Euro 2020, says minister
The chaos and crowd trouble at July’s Euro 2020 final have harmed but “not put the kibosh” on the combined British and Irish bid for the 2030 World Cup, the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, has insisted.
However Huddleston’s claims were rejected by Julian Knight MP, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, who said that the government’s plans to spend £11m on a feasibility study before bidding for the 2030 tournament was “utter nonsense”.
“Give me the money if you want, I can just tell you that we’re never going to win it,” Knight told Huddleston, pointing to the disastrous 2018 World Cup bid and the disturbances at the European Championship final between England and Italy as huge barriers to a successful attempt.
Huddleston said he did not share Knight’s pessimism because he believed Fifa’s bidding process had fundamentally changed. He also said that while the fighting and disturbances that ensued when ticketless fans gained entry to Wembley had “harmed” the bid, it was not reflective of a wider problem.
“As you know last time we were made promises behind closed doors and those World Cup votes did not transpire,” he said. “The process has changed. If it hadn’t, I would share your scepticism.”
Last month, Uefa’s disciplinary panel gave England a two-match stadium ban, with one of those suspended for two years, and a €100,000 (£84,500) fine. Huddleston admitted the disturbances had “harmed” the bid.
“Everybody saw that on TV screens around the world. It was not great,” he said. “I blame those who participated in this unruly and despicable behaviour for undermining our national game, and actually potentially undermining our ability to put a credible pitch forward to Uefa and Fifa for the World Cup.
“That said, in the conversations we’ve had so far it’s recognised that it was exceptional and we actually can hold events very well. And I don’t believe that the events at Wembley, in and of themselves, are going to put the kibosh on our bid. In fact, not at all.”