England is ready to host the 2022 World Cup if it is stripped from Qatar in the wake of allegations of corruption and bribery in Fifa - and Sunderland and Newcastle United could benefit.
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale today told the House of Commons that the country has the facilities to host the 2022 event if asked by Fifa.
He spoke as MPs asked whether England could step in if allegations that the bid process for the Qatar tournament was corrupt are found to be true.
Mr Whittingdale agreed with FA chairman Greg Dyke’s observation that since the 2018 tournament is being hosted by Russia, it may be unlikely another European nation would be granted the 2022 edition.
But he said England “obviously” has the facilities to host the world’s biggest football tournament, last held in this country in 1966.
The bid to host the 2018 World Cup envisaged games being played at 15 stadia around the country, including Sunderland’s Stadium of Light and Newcastle’s St James’s Park.
Other games would have been played at grounds in London (three stadia), Manchester (two), Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Plymouth, and Sheffield.
During culture questions in the Commons, Mr Whittingdale said: “But obviously if Fifa came forward and asked us to consider hosting it, we have the facilities in this country - and of course we did mount a very impressive, if unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup.”
Mr Whittingdale said there would be a “very strong” case for re-running bidding for the 2022 World Cup if the original process was proved to be corrupt.
“If there is evidence the bid process was corrupt, then I think the case for re-running it is very strong.”
The Culture Secretary spoke two days after Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced he would stand down in the wake of the corruption scandal.
Swiss authorities are investigating the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.