FIFA fielding World Cup bids from lineup of 11 candidates

FIFA appears to have bidders lining up to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Football's governing body will confirm Tuesday which candidates - nine individual nations and a pair of two-country proposals - have followed up their initial interest last month by formally registering for the contest.

They are: Australia, England, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, United States and South Korea, plus joint bids from Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal.

All want one of the two prizes on offer - hosting 32 teams and hundreds of thousands of visitors for a four-week festival of football that is the planet's most-watched sports event.

FIFA's 24-man executive committee will choose the two winning bids in December 2010.

"(The World Cup) is unrivalled in its power to awaken emotions, capture the imagination and unite people all over the world in celebration," FIFA gushed when launching the hosting rights competition in January.

The tournament generates billions of dollars through television, tourist and marketing. But it also requires billions of dollars of investment to stage, once the bills for building and upgrading stadiums, roads, airports and hotels are added up.

Candidates must provide about 12 stadiums holding at least 40,000 fans for group matches, with one stadium of at least 80,000 capacity to stage the opening match and final.

"Much work awaits us, but we are optimistic because our bid is fully supported by the government," said Nugraha Besoes, secretary general of the All Indonesia Football Association.

Australia's bid alone has 23 million euros (C$38 million) of government support and was delivered in person by national federation chairman Frank Lowy to FIFA president Sepp Blatter in Zurich on Sunday. It points to Australia's successful hosting of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

"We have a demonstrable track record in staging major sporting events," Australian federation spokeswoman Bonita Mersiades said. "A World Cup event here would be trouble-free. And we have a country that people want to come and see."

Four of the bids come from FIFA's Asian confederation, two from the CONCACAF region of the Americas and five from Europe.

Because South Africa is hosting in 2010, African nations were eligible to bid only for the 2022 World Cup. None came forward.

South American countries were barred from joining either race because Brazil will host the 2014 tournament.

A European country is considered favourite to win in 2018 to avoid the continent which provides almost half the tournament's teams being deprived of the event for three straight editions.

The World Cup had never left Europe for consecutive tournaments until FIFA introduced a policy of continental rotation that enabled South Africa and then Brazil to make winning bids.

With Europe's television markets being a rich source of revenue for FIFA, broadcasters there would not be impressed if the 2018 World Cup went to Asia or Australia where matches would be played outside of their prime time hours.

FIFA relies on the World Cup for 90 per cent of its income, and expects to earn 2.46 billion euros (C$4.05 billion) in television and marketing revenue from the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

England's bid was submitted Monday with chairman David Triesman saying it was for both editions.

"By declaring our interest for both the 2018 and 2022 tournaments we are maximizing our chances of winning the right to host the world's greatest sporting occasion," he said

Russian Football Union spokesman Andrei Malasolov said it had no preference on hosting in 2018 or 2022 and would leave it to FIFA to decide.

Five of the bidders have previously staged a World Cup: England in 1966; Mexico in 1970 and 1986; the United States in 1994; and South Korea and Japan as co-hosts in 2002.

Blatter has said the co-hosting experience was not a happy one and that he prefers bids from a solo host.

However, the two joint proposals from Europe can be converted to a single-nation option up to the May 2010 deadline for candidates to submit their bid book.

Until then, bidders have other dates in their diary. FIFA will send out more details of bidding and hosting requirements next month, while candidates must send a signed bidding agreement to Zurich by Dec. 11. Candidates will also be visited by FIFA officials and executives over the coming year.

Winning bidders also get to host an eight-team Confederations Cup tournament as a test event exactly one year before their World Cup.

The Canadian Press

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