End of World Cup rotation may open 2018 door for England

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LONDON, Oct 25 (Reuters) FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said he expects rotation of the World Cup between continents to be ended by a FIFA executive committee next week, which would clear the way for England to bid for the 2018 tournament.

Blatter met British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Downing Street yesterday, with the 2018 World Cup top of the agenda during half an hour of talks.

Speaking outside the prime minister's Downing Street residence, Blatter said: ''Gordon Brown has asked that we shall take a decision that the FA will be able to bid for the 2018 World Cup.

''It's an item we will be discussing on Monday and Tuesday at the FIFA executive committee in Zurich, on how the World Cup is to be presented to the world,'' he said.

''Definitely, if it happens then I can say England, the Football Association of England, will present a really strong bid.

''The most important thing is that the British government will support our 'Football for Hope' programme in Africa.'' FIFA's executive committee will make the final decision on its rotation policy in Zurich on Tuesday but are expected to rubber-stamp Blatter's proposal.

Blatter said the only continent that would not be able to hold the finals would be the one which has hosted the previous tournament, so South America, who should host the 2014 finals in Brazil, will not be eligible.

Brown told Blatter the time was right for England to host the World Cup again. They have done so once in 1966.

''While a bid is a matter for the English FA, we have said we are not only willing but very keen to support an England bid for the 2018 World Cup,'' Brown said.

''By 2018 it will be more than 50 years since we last hosted the World Cup and it would be a huge boost to football in our country and would also make for a great sporting decade.

''We will have the Olympics in 2012, potentially the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and perhaps even the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and then to be able to host the 2018 World Cup in England would be a marvellous completion of the best sporting decade in our history.'' Other countries which have hinted they may bid for the 2018 finals include Australia, China and Russia.

Blatter was due in Sheffield later yesterday as the guest of honour at the 150th anniversary dinner of Sheffield FC, the oldest club in the world.

REUTERS BJR ND1415

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