ENGLAND is ready to host the 2022 World Cup if it is stripped from Qatar in the wake of allegations of corruption and bribery in Fifa, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said.
Mr Whittingdale said the country has the facilities and mounted an impressive, if unsuccessful, bid to host the 2018 World Cup, and so could host the 2022 event if asked by Fifa.
He spoke as MPs asked whether England could step in to host the World Cup if allegations that the bid process for the Qatar tournament was corrupt are found to be true.
Mr Whittingdale backed FA chairman Greg Dyke’s observation that since the 2018 World Cup is being hosted by Russia, it may be unlikely that another European nation would be granted the 2022 edition.
But he said England “obviously” has the facilities to host the world’s biggest football tournament, last held in the country in 1966.
During culture questions in the Commons, Mr Whittingdale said: “In terms of the decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, that is obviously something which we are watching the investigation, but at the moment that decision stands.
“If it were decided to change that, I think as the chairman of the English FA observed, if Russia hosts the World Cup in 2018 it does seem very unlikely that another European country would host it in 2022.
“But obviously if Fifa came forward and asked us to consider hosting it, we have the facilities in this country and of course we did mount a very impressive, if unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup.”
Mr Whittingdale said there would be a “very strong” case for rerunning bidding for the 2022 World Cup if the original process was corrupt.
He said: “If there is evidence the bid process was corrupt then I think the case for rerunning it is very strong.”
The Culture Secretary spoke two days after Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced he would stand down.
But Mr Whittingdale said Blatter’s resignation was only the beginning of the process to reform Fifa.
“In order to achieve the reforms that all of us believe are vitally necessary in Fifa, the first requirement was a change in leadership.
“We have now obtained that but that is the beginning of the process, certainly not the end of it.
“And it is for the football associations of the home nations to work with other football associations who are equally determined to see change in order to ensure that the new leadership is properly committed to achieving those changes.”
The Culture Secretary spoke as former top Fifa executive Chuck Blazer admitted bribes were paid to senior officials to vote for the 2010 and 1998 World Cups.
Plea bargain details published by the US Department of Justice revealed that Blazer admitted taking bribes totalling 10 million US dollars for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup and an undisclosed sum for Morocco’s unsuccessful bid to host the 1998 tournament.
Hours later former Fifa vice president Jack Warner, who is wanted by US authorities, claimed he would reveal the “secrets” about the scandal and had documents linking Blatter and other officials to the 2010 election in Trinidad and Tobago.
Swiss authorities are investigating the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant said: “With the news from Chuck Glazer and Jack Warner, isn’t it increasingly evident that Fifa is a stinking sink of corruption and it has polluted everything it touched?
“Would it now not be wholly inappropriate for any money to pass from UK broadcasters in respect of 2018 or 2022 unless and until Blatter has actually left - rather than just declared he is leaving - Fifa is reformed and the 2018 and 2022 bids are rerun?”
Mr Whittingdale replied: “I share your astonishment that even today the new claims being made by Jack Warner, this whole saga becomes more murky and distasteful by the day.”
He added: “However, if the World Cup goes ahead then I think it would be unfair to tell English fans, and indeed fans of the other home nations if their sides qualify, that they would not be able to watch their sides compete in the World Cup because the broadcasters were not going to purchase the sports rights to cover it.
“I think it’s a separate matter - the important thing is we get this cleared up long before we actually get to the World Cup in 2018.”
Shadow sport minister Clive Efford said: “I wonder about these people at the top of Fifa, as to whether they have actually been to a football match where they have bought their own ticket or whether they have actually followed a football team week in and week out or whether they have pulled on a football shirt and actually ever played in a match.
“We really need to get rid of these people at the top of the game.”