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Football: Positive World Cup message for England.

Byline: BY MARTIN ZIEGLER

ENGLAND would be front-runners to win the right to stage the 2018 World Cup, according to UEFA president Lennart Johansson.

The Swede, in London to launch his campaign to be re-elected UEFA president, met Chancellor Gordon Brown and expressed his view about England's strong prospects.

Johansson said that the six Confederations had agreed that every third World Cup finals tournament should be staged in Europe, and that if England bid for 2018 there would be no repeat of the humiliation suffered when they went against Germany for the 2006 tournament.

In that campaign, England bid despite a gentleman's agreement they had with UEFA countries not to stand against Germany. Johansson explained to the Chancellor that no such obstacle would affect an English bid for 2018. Johansson said: "I told Mr Brown about the gentleman's agreement for 2006, but this time most certainly there will be a positive reaction because the other big countries in Europe - Italy, Germany, France and Spain - have had it recently and you have not had it since 1966.

"I would be surprised if UEFA did not vote for England this time although they are not bound by any agreement.

"I spoke with the Chancellor and he is very keen on the idea of it coming back to England. After Germany this year, it is going to South Africa in 2010 and to South America in 2014.

"The next time it might be back in Europe would be 2018. England have not had the World Cup since 1966 and I know there is a great deal of interest to support such a project."

Sports minister Richard Caborn confirmed the Government would back a bid for the finals.

"Absolutely, I have no doubt," he said. "We would be in very serious contention, plus if we have a good 2012 Olympics it will put us in the premier division of countries for running sports events."

Johansson, 77 next week, is standing against Michel Platini in the election on January 26.

Platini wants to limit each country to having a maximum of three teams in the Champions League but Johansson promised to maintain four English teams if he is re-elected.

However Johansson accepted the income from the tournament perpetuated divisions within domestic leagues and that he was in favour of redistributing money from Europe's top club competition so even clubs who do not qualify receive some benefits.

"The five big countries in Europe give us the main part of our income so it makes sense that they benefit the most," said Johansson.

"I am in favour of redistribution to other members of the league, not only the three or four at the top."

Johansson has promised to tackle football's murky financial dealings and toughen up regulations on agents.

He also expressed his intention to rid football of "the scourge of racism", improve corporate governance and achieve better financial transparency.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 3, 2006
Words:483
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