The chairman of the Football Association is to embark on a worldwide tour of other Fifa member countries on a charm offensive which could help England if they decide to bid for the 2030 World Cup.
Greg Clarke has already visited two thirds of Uefa territories but he will extend his meetings to include Africa and Asia. The purpose of the trip is to build bridges and reverse a commonly held belief among certain countries that the FA is arrogant.
However, it will no doubt also be invaluable if the FA puts its hat in the ring to host the 2030 World Cup finals, in what will be the second 48-team competition. A European host country for 2030 is looking increasingly likely after Uefa promised to fight for the tournament and block any effort to hand it to China.
When Clarke was asked this year about a possible World Cup bid, he said: “We are building bridges, we are showing that we are not standoffish noses in the air, we invented football, that sort of stuff that we have a reputation for, we are just a team player in Uefa and Fifa.
“I have joined a couple of Uefa committees, I have met a lot of people and what I am trying to do is to create room at the table for England to be listened to.
“It’s my job to get to know enough people in Uefa and Fifa so that we may or may not get a run at a tournament but we won’t waste £20m bidding for a tournament we can never win, because that’s 40 artificial pitches I can’t afford to waste.”
If Fifa abides by a continental rotation policy the 2030 World Cup finals will be held in Europe. The policy, which dictates that the World Cup tournament should not be held in the same region more than once every 12 years, was abandoned in 2007 but resurrected with the ruling that the 2026 edition would not take place in Europe.
It should block an Asian nation winning the 2030 tournament, given that Qatar will host 2022. The FA has not committed to bidding for the 100th anniversary of the tournament but is aware there would be plenty of legwork if it did decide to bid for the finals.
England have failed in two bids to host the World Cup since the 1966 tournament, most recently in the vote for the 2018 edition. Richard Caborn, a former minister of sport, claimed an arrogance around the FA was reason for its failed bid.
The chief executive, Martin Glenn, has admitted previously that there is a PR war to be won in terms of how England is perceived on the world stage. England’s failure to perform at major tournaments in recent years has not inspired and there is a prevailing feeling that they are trying to tell the rest of the world how to run the game.
Clarke’s performance at a government hearing into the FA’s handling of Eni Aluko’s allegations of racism against the former England coach Mark Sampson failed to win him any admirers. But he has forced through radical reforms in how the FA operates and will hope he can use those tested negotiation skills to build bridges abroad.