England would never have launched a bid to stage the World Cup in 2018 if world governing body FIFA had said at the outset that it wanted to take the tournament to new frontiers, British sports minister Hugh Robertson said on Thursday.
He told delegates at the Leaders in Football conference that if FIFA had been more open about its objectives, the British government and the Football Association would never have spent 15 million pounds on producing a brilliant bid which FIFA had no interest in.
"Looking back now I wish we had had the gumption and the knowledge at a very early stage to realise that FIFA wanted something fundamentally different from what we were putting on the table," Robertson said.
"We were saying we could run the best possible football tournament and the evaluation commission ruled we had the best technical bid.
"The problem was that wasn't what FIFA wanted. They wanted the opportunity to take the next World Cups to markets they had not penetrated in any way before, so actually it did not matter how good our bid was, we were never in the game at all."
England, which hosted the World Cup in 1966, bid to stage the tournament along with eventual winners Russia and joint bids from Portugal/Spain and Belgium/Netherlands but were eliminated in the first round of polling among members of FIFA's Executive Committee.
England's bid received just two votes, one of which was from its own representative.
Russia, which had never staged the finals before, won on the second round of voting with 13 votes ahead of the two joint-bids.
Robertson was asked if he regretted the bid taking place.
"No sports minister could sit here and be absolutely confident about a bid that cost sport in this country 15 million pounds that could have been invested somewhere else," he said.
"I wish we had had the foresight or the knowledge to appreciate that earlier. We produced the best technical bid of the lot, and it attracted one other vote apart from our own. Nobody in football, or in the government, could be happy about a bidding process that produced that outcome."
He added it was "absolutely right" that British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William were involved in the bidding process and went to Zurich to meet executive committee members just before the vote.
Asked how Cameron reacted to the humiliating defeat, Robertson said: "He was intensely disappointed and very very irritated.
"He's not the sort of person to kick the wall but it's a pretty sad day when you look the Prime Minister of this country in the eye, promise you their vote and don't do so."
FIFA also awarded the 2022 World Cup to the tiny Gulf state of Qatar, a decision that has been the subject of considerable debate ever since.comments