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Beckham looking for late support for England's bid

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 1 2010 6:53 a.m. MST

ZURICH — David Beckham and Prince William met FIFA executives late Wednesday night in a final push to garner support for England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Former England captain Beckham and Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, joined Prime Minister David Cameron to form the most high-profile campaigning force presented by a bidding nation in Zurich ahead of Thursday's vote.

The trio emerged in the lobby of a Zurich hotel just before midnight after holding a series of meetings with executive committee members, including FIFA vice president Jack Warner. England coach Fabio Capello also spent the evening in another area of the official hotel holding meetings.

Beckham and Prince William are due to speak at the presentation to FIFA on Thursday before members choose a host from among four bids — England, Russia and joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands.

"It's hard to tell whether you've definitely got a vote," Beckham said. "You get a good feeling from some of the members that we've met over the last couple of days."

But as the meetings were concluding, news filtered into the hotel of violence at Birmingham's League Cup quarterfinal match with Aston Villa.

As they celebrated a 2-1 victory, Birmingham fans ran onto the field and threw flares at rival supporters. Villa supporters responded by ripping up seats and throwing them onto the pitch.

The violence was reminiscent of that which marred English football through the 1970s and '80s, but Birmingham manager Alex McLeish hopes the violence doesn't harm England's chances on Thursday.

"I'm sure that's already decided, and let's hope England gets it because it deserves it," McLeish said. "It doesn't look good, though, when you see fans running on the pitch like that and carrying on. It takes us back to the Dark Ages."

England must also hope that its chances of securing the votes from Warner — and his two CONCACAF colleagues — haven't been damaged by a BBC probe into world football's governing body which aired Monday. Warner was accused of being involved in a ticket scam for the 2010 World Cup. The BBC said the deal fell through when resellers would not pay Warner's asking price.

"He loves the Premiership, he loves our country, he loves everything about our game," Beckham, who is a vice president of England's bid team, said ahead of the meeting. "Every vote is important, but I have spent time with Jack in Trinidad and Tobago and that was good, but it's important now that we get votes from everybody."

In the meeting, Warner congratulated Prince William on his engagement last month to Kate Middleton, reportedly quipping that a strong marriage was like "a good football match — to win it you must be determined and willing to work hard, and your tactics may have to change from time to time."

Prince William had started a second day of campaigning by having breakfast Wednesday with FIFA executive committee member Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay.

Leoz could only back England if Spain-Portugal is eliminated in the early rounds because the three South American football federation members are committed to backing that joint bid. The country with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated until a there is a majority.

But gaining Leoz's support could be tough since he was one of the FIFA executive committee members accused by the BBC of taking cash from FIFA's former marketing partner in the 1990s.

The English also hope there won't be a backlash against the bid from African football confederation President Issa Hayatou, who faced the same corruption accusations in the BBC documentary.

Cameron tried to secure Hayatou's support before making a brief trip back to London early Wednesday to carry out his parliamentary duties.

FIFA will also decide on the host for the 2022 World Cup on Thursday, with the United States up against bids from Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea.

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