City MP puts boot in over World Cup

AFTER a South Yorkshire lobbying campaign helped scupper an £18m grant towards the construction of Leeds Arena revenge may be in the air.

The battle has moved into the sporting arena, with West Yorkshire MPs seeking support from colleagues in the Commons to ensure Leeds United's Elland Road stadium sees off rival Sheffield grounds as the top choice to host games in Yorkshire if England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup is successful.

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has tabled a motion, which declares Elland Road as "the most appropriate venue in Yorkshire for such a tournament", just days after it emerged that the Government would not sanction Yorkshire Forward to give 18m towards Leeds Arena.

That decision, which came after South Yorkshire campaigners argued it was wrong for the regional development agency to support a new venue which could rival Sheffield Arena, provoked a furious backlash from politicians in Leeds.

Now Mr Mulholland's motion, which has been backed by nine MPs including Leeds West's John Battle, threatens to escalate the rivalry, and pitches him against his Liberal Democrat colleague and leader Nick Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, who is backing the South Yorkshire city's bid to host games at Bramall Lane or Hillsborough. Mr Mulholland's motion backs the bid to "secure World Cup football at Elland Road", "welcomes the investment that the awarding of World Cup football would bring to the stadium, the city and the wider region" and claims hosting games in Leeds would boost tourism across Yorkshire.

Last night Mr Mulholland, who sparked controversy by urging people in Leeds to boycott Sheffield Arena this week, said: "It's obviously for each city to make its own case, but I think with the history of Elland Road, as well as its size, it's somewhere that really would very much lend itself to being part of the bid.

"Clearly everyone in Leeds wants to see Elland Road further developed, which I think will happen over the next few years as hopefully Leeds begin to get back to where they should be, in the Premiership. By 2018 Elland Road will hopefully be a world- class Premiership stadium."

Politicians from South Yorkshire, however, have taken a different view and are preparing for World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks to help their bid campaign at an event on Friday. Sheffield Attercliffe MP Clive Betts, who held talks with the national bid team at Labour's conference in Brighton last month, said: "Obviously as a Sheffield MP I would be arguing the case for Sheffield, but I don't think that's the position we're in. I don't think it's either Leeds or Sheffield – I think it's possible it could be both cities.

"The first thing is we've got to win the World Cup bid for England. We all ought to be pulling together to achieve that."

Comment: Page 10.