2026 World Cup: Will England bid for the finals?

By Richard ConwayBBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent
Wembley Stadium
The first competitive match at the newly refurbished Wembley Stadium was an England U-21 v Italy U-21 in 2007

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has revealed England may consider a bid to host the 2026 World Cup finals.

England lost out to Russia for the right to host the 2018 tournament, where they came fourth in the bidding process, winning only two votes.

Dyke has indicated that Fifa president Sepp Blatter's attempt for re-election on 29 May will be a key factor in whether a bid is made.

If successful, Blatter will oversee the bid process for the 2026 tournament, which takes place in 2017.

BBC sports news correspondent Richard Conway assesses the chances of an England bid.

How likely is it?

It's very much a long-shot and Greg Dyke's words that he could be "persuaded" over a bid speaks a lot of the lengthy pre-conditions that would need to be fulfilled first.

David Gill would need to provide the FA board with a reassurance that the process is scrupulously fair and above-board following the humiliation of the 2018 bid.

Then the government would need to underwrite the deal.

They are significant hurdles for the FA to get over, hence Greg Dyke's realism on this issue.

England as hosts
England has only hosted one major tournament since the 1966 World Cup, the Euro 96 tournament
The FA failed with bids for the 2006 World Cup, losing out to Germany, and the 2018 World Cup to be hosted by Russia
The 90,000-capacity Wembley staged the 2011 and 2013 Champions League finals

Has the process changed?

Fifa's executive committee are no longer responsible for the final say on which country is awarded a World Cup.

Instead, they will establish a shortlist before the 209 member nations of Fifa cast a vote for their preferred choice.

2026 will be the first tournament to be decided under the new system - a final decision will be made in May 2017 at Fifa's annual congress in Kuala Lumpur.

Does The FA want to host major tournaments?

Yes, there's no question about it.

But they won't countenance a bid for any Fifa tournament while Sepp Blatter is in office. Greg Dyke's comments have however opened the door, ever so slightly, to a change in that policy.

However with Mr Blatter favourite to win another term of office in May it looks like the FA may have to wait a little longer before bidding for a World Cup again.

What about the Uefa European Championship?

Yes, that could be an option for the FA.

Wembley will host the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020, which is being held across Europe.

That could pave the way for the tournament to come in its entirety in 2028. Germany, having stood aside in the fight for the 2020 final, remain in pole position to host 2024.

Do we have the facilities?

England boasts some of the world's best stadiums and training facilities.

Old Trafford
Manchester United's Old Trafford is the biggest English club ground, with a capacity of over 75,000

By 2026 or 2030 the World Cup could well be expanded to 40 teams.

Such a large number of teams, fans, officials and media visiting for a month long tournament requires extensive infrastructure. The FA will be confident that it can meet any request it faces.

Aren't the USA favourites for 2026?

Yes. Having narrowly lost out to Qatar for 2022 there are plenty of people connected to US soccer who feel they deserve to be awarded 2026.

And given Fifa's previous policy of rotating the World Cup around its confederations there is a school of thought which says only countries from Africa or North America, Central America or the Caribbean can bid.

If such a policy was adhered to - Concacaf president and Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb certainly thinks it should be - then the field of eligible candidates narrows dramatically.

Morocco are thought to be keen along with the US, Mexico and Canada.

But China would also love to host the World Cup, as would Australia.

However both countries are members of the Asian Football Confederation and as a fellow member, Qatar, is hosting 2022 that would make them ineligible to be awarded 2026.

We should know more in the coming months as Fifa lays out the criteria and timeline for the bidding process but a World Cup final on 4 July 2026 - the 250th anniversary of American independence - is a compelling narrative, especially for a country where the interest in football is booming.

What happened last time England bid?

Abject failure.

England crashed out in the first round of voting after securing just two votes - one of them coming from Geoff Thompson, Britain's representative within Fifa at the time.

Even the arrival of the Three Lions in Zurich on the eve of the vote failed to help. Prince William, David Beckham and David Cameron all lobbied Fifa voters. England 2018 bid officials later complained of Fifa executives promising to vote for them and then reneging on their promise.

The scars from that whole process are still relatively fresh - and deep. Gaining government support from the current administration will therefore be a tough ask with Sepp Blatter still in charge.

Is this Dyke saying something he shouldn't?

Greg Dyke has reflected how the FA's policy on bidding for Fifa events could change in very specific circumstances.

A bid for 2026 remains very unlikely but, in the longer term, it's clear that the FA want to host major tournaments once again.

The fraught process of securing a coalition of support to mount such a bid - be it for a Euro Championship or a World Cup - will take time too.

However, it's something clearly on the minds of officials at the FA. Events, as always, will determine how they respond in the months and years ahead.

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