FIFA sets February deadline for World Cup bidders

BERNE, Switzerland - FIFA has called on potential bidders for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to formally express their interest by a deadline of February 2.

In a circular letter sent to national associations on Thursday, FIFA said it was officially launching the simultaneous bidding process for the two events which will be awarded to the successful candidates in December 2010.

The letter, also published on FIFA's website, sets out the planned timeframe for the bidding process and also gives a first indication of what potential hosts are expected to provide.

Several countries, including England, Spain and Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium, Australia, China, Mexico and Russia have already expressed interests in staging one or other of the tournaments.

FIFA said that the "infrastructure and facilities in the host county must be of the highest quality", adding that approximately 12 stadiums with minimum capacities of 40,000 would be required.

Stadiums earmarked for staging the World Cup final would need to hold at least 80,000 spectators, the letter added.

FIFA said it would call on bidders to provide top quality broadcasting, information technology, transport and accommodation but said it also wanted the tournaments "to benefit the game of football itself and society in general."

The letter said that further details would be set out in the bid documents to be sent to associations who express an interest by the February 2 deadline.

FIFA decided in 2007 to end its policy of rotating the World Cup from continent to continent in strict sequence.

As a result countries will only be barred from bidding to stage the event if they are located in a continent that has hosted one of the two preceding tournaments.

African nations will therefore not be able to bid for the 2018 World Cup due to South Africa's hosting of the 2010 edition.

South American countries will not be considered for either 2018 or 2022 because Brazil is due to hold the 2014 World Cup.