Soccer-England to bid for 2018 World Cup finals

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LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) England will bid to host the 2018 World Cup finals, the Football Association confirmed today.

England failed in their attempt to stage the 2006 tournament but are bidding again after world governing body FIFA announced on Monday it was ending its continental rotation policy.

''I'm delighted to announce our intention to bid to host the World Cup in 2018,'' FA chairman Geoff Thompson said.

''This follows FIFA's announcement on Monday that the previous rotation policy will be discontinued, and the positive comments made by FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

''The tremendous support from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his government has also been a key consideration in today's decision.'' England has only staged the World Cup once in 1966 when they beat West Germany in the final at Wembley. The 1996 European Championship was also held in England.

FA chief executive Brian Barwick said the work to bring the World Cup back to England would start straight away.

''This is a great moment for all of us who love the game in this country,'' he said. ''The excitement and expectation from the public to a prospective bid has been incredible.

''It is very clear that the English football public wants to see the World Cup back in this country. We now have to begin the hard work of putting together our plans for a successful bid.'' Belgium and Netherlands have already confirmed they would make a joint bid while Australia are also expected to enter the race. China, Mexico and the US have also expressed an interest.

Reuters AM GC2151

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