Australia receive boost for World Cup bid

SYDNEY - Australia's bid to stage the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 has received a boost after rival sports agreed to vacate the country's major stadiums during the tournament, according to local media. Organisers of Australia's bid were concerned about the availability of venues because the World Cup, traditionally held in the middle of the year, would clash with the national rugby league, rugby union and Australian Rules seasons. Most of Australia's biggest stadiums are regularly used by all four sports but rugby league, rugby union and Australian Rules officials have agreed to rearrange their match schedules and allow soccer to have first choice if Australia succeeds in winning the right to host the tournament. While details of the agreement remain secret, the Australian newspaper reported that the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) held private talks with officials from the other codes this week and the plans had been forwarded to the federal government fot approval. "We've put a fairly substantial submission forward to the Federal Government," FFA boss Ben Buckley told reporters. "There's work going on behind the scenes in terms of organisational planning, tactical planning, technical planning, so we've very happy with where we're at." News of the deal comes just a month before the FIFA executive meets in Tokyo to finalise the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The board met in Switzerland last month to consider FIFA president Sepp Blatter's proposal for a simultaneous bidding process but delayed their decision after they could not agree on the timetable. Belgium and the Netherlands, who are preparing a joint bid, are the only countries to have formally declared their bids although several other countries, including the United States, Mexico, England, Spain and China have also expressed their interest.