Hats off to the 2018 World Cup committee! They trimmed the list down from sixteen to twelve cities as potential venues to host matches for the 2018 World Cup should England, and they left Milton Keynes in. The bid has so far been a troubled one – this much we already know for certain – but the one thing that the FA had largely been able to depend upon had been, broadly speaking, a high degree of public support. The decision to include Milton Keynes into the end game of the selection process, however, will anger a good number of people – significantly, a good number of the people that make up the bread and butter of football supporters, who continue to regard the franchising of football to Milton Keynes as an abomination. For those of you that think that we may simply be projecting a few of our own prejudices, though, here are a few sample thoughts on the subject from forums today:
Not for me. I’d rather ONLY London grounds were used than this travesty. Home of football? FFS. The FA let Winkelman steal a team and introduce the idea of a franchise into English football, then a few years later basically reward him for doing so by giving them WC matches? It’s absolutely unbelievable. I don’t care if it’s the finest stadium in the world, it shouldn’t even have been allowed to submit a bid for consideration. The FA are now so far out of touch it beggars belief, even for them. An absolutely disgraceful decision and one that, regardless of whether they agree with it, spits in the face of all true fans, not just Wimbledon supporters. (Brighton & Hove Albion – North Stand Chat)
Nothing in (the massive connurbation of ) South London, but the FA falling over themselves to help Winkleman and the Franchise club – again ! (Crystal Palace – CPFC.net)
Shame MK are there though. Someone earlier said ‘What Winkleman wants, he usually gets”, and it would have been nice to see his smugly grin wiped off his face. (Leyton Orient Official Forum)
MK, Jesus thought they would come to England for the history of the game, not steeped in history, is it? What will they do with the ground after its over? (Aston Villa – Villatalk)
Fuck Milton Keynes and their plastic fucking creation. (Leeds United – WACCOE)
Milton Keynes is a disgrace, a pre-fab football team playing at a hockey stadium. (Hull City – Amber Nectar)
You don’t even have to be particularly pro or anti Milton Keynes to understand that to pick a host town for a bid that has already appeared divided enough is a strange move, particularly when two cities – both Bristol and Plymouth – were chosen as well from the south of England as well as four from London, from which as many as three may be selected. This, however, is the FA further legitimising their decision to allow the franchising of football to Milton Keynes. They had to choice one of three other cities – one of which is currently hosting Premier League football – but decided instead to be sold the “MK Project”. A bid that is likely to contain a considerable amount on the subject of England as the “Home Of Football” will contain one town that snatched a place in the Football League from a club that had worked its way into this exclusive group and has no football history to speak of other than a string of non-league clubs that failed due to a lack of local interest.
Neither does the bid say much for the notion of clubs spending within their means. Plymouth Argyle (average attendance so far this season: 10,726) have committed to a 46,000 seater stadium at a cost of £50m. If they’re not in the final twelve selected, they still intend to redevelop the stadium to hold 27,000 people at a cost of £20m. Bristol City, meanwhile, lost £6.5m in the year to the end of May 2009, but they (average attendance so far this season: 14,424) intend to build a new, 40,000 capacity seater stadium. This one is expected to cost £92m. Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, have only just stabilised financially after more than a decade of financial difficulties. They intend to build – you guessed it – a 40,000 seater capacity stadium which is projected to cost £50m, a figure that seems likely to increase considerably. In the high excitement of being invited to the World Cup party, rather too few questions about who is going to be paying for this orgy of plastic bucket seating in a decade during which – at a public spending level – the key watch word is like to be “austerity”.
It’s worth remembering that none of Milton Keynes, Bristol, Plymouth or Nottingham have won anything yet. The next step, for the England 2018 committee, is to win over FIFA. The rights and wrongs of which towns and cities should or shouldn’t be hosting the World Cup finals are unlikely to be scrutinised too closely by FIFA, though. However, if the Football Association wanted all of us to get behind the bid, they have probably failed. For some of us, though, repeatedly shoving David Beckham in our faces whilst shouting “AWESOME! HOME OF FOOTBALL!” isn’t quite enough, and very little in today’s selection has done anything other than make the heart grow slightly wearier. Ten years ago, the thought of not supporting an England bid for the World Cup finals would have been pretty unthinkable, but a lot has changed over the last ten years and it’s just not that easy any more.