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Unread 07-01-2010, 10:20 PM
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Default 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidders rattle tin for votes in Angola

• England delegation to meet with four African members
• African votes to be particularly important for 2018 and 2022

Not only is Africa hosting its first ever World Cup in 2010, but it will this year play a crucial role in deciding the destination of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. A few weeks on from the glad-handing, photo opportunities and carefully orchestrated meetings that preceded the World Cup draw in Cape Town, the countries bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will later this month descend on Angola for the latest crucial staging post.

As the continent's best footballers display their talents on the pitch, senior figures from England's team will join those from Russia, Australia, the US, Spain/Portugal, Qatar and elsewhere in targeting the four African members of the Fifa executive committee who will prove pivotal in December's vote. Partly because it is the only confederation without a bidding nation for either 2018 or 2022, the African votes are disproportionately important, particularly to the European contenders. Europe's eight votes will be split between four bidders and Africa does not vote as a bloc.

The England 2018 delegation, likely to include the bid chairman, Lord Triesman, and the chief executive, Andy Anson, will hope the momentum created in South Africa will help create some distance from the domestic politicking, internal divisions and PR missteps that had threatened to derail their efforts.

As in Cape Town, where there were rumblings over dirty tricks, some bidders were today concerned at a move by Qatar's 2022 campaign to exclusively sponsor the Confederation of African Football congress in Angola on 29 January, two days before the Cup of Nations final.

The move, which prevents any other bidding nations from making presentations, distributing promotional material or otherwise having a public presence in the venue "or its vicinity", provoked anger among some bidders. The cash-rich Qatar campaign will see the exclusive deal as a coup.

But senior executives in England's bid team were understood to be relaxed, believing it would not impinge on their plans. A senior delegation will be in Angola for the Caf congress and the closing stages of the Africa Cup of Nations, and will focus on lobbying behind the scenes.

Without David Beckham's stardust to sweeten the message, meetings with the four African executive committee members and others in the African football world will focus more tightly on what an English World Cup could do for football in Africa. Aside from the record profits that Anson has promised will flow into Fifa coffers, they will try to flag up other pluses, such as the Football Association's well-respected international relations work.

Under an agreement with Caf, it commits to organising a number of workshops every year and also partners with Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi as part of a Uefa project to link European and African associations. Initiatives such as Coaching For Hope, which operated the scheme that Beckham visited on the outskirts of Cape Town, will also be to the fore.

The Premier League has also stepped up its international outreach efforts in recent years, partly for commercial but also for corporate social responsibility reasons. In Africa as in Asia, it has been working with local leagues to raise standards of refereeing and coaching and maximise revenues from sponsorship and TV rights. Expanding and extending such schemes could be an important weapon in England's armoury.

The profile of the Premier League in Africa is a key calling card, despite the well publicised enmity between its chairman, Sir Dave Richards, and Triesman that resulted in the former resigning from the board in fit of pique. Although they will not be called on during the tournament, several high-profile African stars – Michael Essien, Kanu, Alexandre Song, Kolo Touré and Joseph Yobo among them – have signed up as ambassadors. Didier Drogba remains one obvious absentee, but could yet be involved at a later stage.

Essien has already filmed a supportive message that will be included on films shown to the African executive committee members. But they will be similarly targeted by every other bid – some of which will be able to offer more in terms of inward investment than England.

In addition to several informal meetings with the four committee members, the England bid has already made formal presentations to Issa Hayatou, the influential Cameroonian president of Caf and a senior Fifa vice president, and Dr Amos Adamu, of Nigeria. Later this year the bid team will travel to Ivory Coast to present formally to Jacques Anouma, while Hany Abu Rida, the committee's Egyptian member, is likely to be wooed when his national team travel to Wembley in March.

The long list of ambassadors will be utilised in tactical fashion. In December, Andy Cole was part of the delegation to meet Adamu because the Nigerian is a huge Manchester United fan. His comments prior to the World Cup draw in Cape Town highlight the extent to which all the African members will play a waiting game to see which of the bidders will benefit them most.

"As the time comes closer I will be able to make a decision for the good of football," Adamu said. "I want to keep it open and see at the end who will have the better bid. We want to see how best our continent can benefit." Hayatou is believed to have expressed support for England and retains a residual affection because the FA backed him in his ill-fated bid to unseat Sepp Blatter as Fifa president in 2002. But with 11 months of campaigning, bartering and bickering to go before he casts his vote, they will take nothing for granted.

Owen Gibson

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