Aussie World Cup bid good to go

SYDNEY, May 10 (Reuters) - Football officials left Australia on Monday to present their bid to FIFA for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, finally able to trumpet a unified sporting fraternity after a government-brokered deal ended months of bitter wrangling.

The rival codes of Australian rules (AFL), rugby league (NRL) and rugby union had been in dispute with Football Federation Australia (FFA) over the use of the nation's best stadiums should the country win the right to hold football's showpiece event.

A memorandum of understanding signed at the weekend, however, will allow the other codes to continue their seasons and would compensate them for vacating venues and relocating games.

"We have the unified support of the nation behind our bid and we are ready to host the biggest sporting event in the world," FFA chairman Frank Lowy, who is taking the "bid book" to FIFA with chief executive Ben Buckley, said in a statement.

"This is great news for football and great news for the whole country as everyone will benefit if we win the right to host a FIFA World Cup."

Lowy, Buckley and Federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis will present what was described as a "fully compliant" bid to FIFA officials in Zurich on Friday.

Football is played as a summer sport in Australia and struggles to attract the same massive crowds and public interest as the other codes, which are all played in winter.

Any World Cup held in Australia would have to be played in the coldest time of the southern hemisphere winter to avoid clashing with the European leagues.

That would put the tournament in direct competition with Australia's most popular sports, which have long-term leasing agreements with the biggest venues.

The AFL said that 90 games would need to be rescheduled or shifted if Australia were successful with the bid.

The Australian Rugby Union, who said they "fully" supported the bid, said a World Cup would affect matches in the Super 15, which would need to be rescheduled, and also Wallabies test matches in June, an issue which still needs to be addressed.

Australia is competing with England, Japan, Netherlands and Belgium, Russia, Spain and Portugal and the United States to host the 2018 or 2002 World Cups.

FIFA will announce the hosts of both tournaments in December.