At least three bids are now understood to be nearing completion of the pitch process, while England is still getting its act together.
Sports PR insiders expressed concern that major agencies could already be working for other bids by the time England finally begins looking for PR support.
Despite initial plans for a pitch as early as last March, internal upheaval and new senior appointments have delayed England’s progress.
Last year, the England bid was hit by the shock removal of PR strategist Peter Hargitay.
Rumours are now circulating that Hargitay may end up working for another bid team, as his excellent contacts with the 24-strong FIFA committee will be priceless.
Following Hargitay’s departure, acting director of comms Phil Mepham took over in the interim until tennis PR supremo Kris Dent joined as comms director this month.
Mepham, who is now working as a consultant for the bid, said: ‘We would expect to be going out to pitch within the next three months.’
Meanwhile, Dent told PRWeek he was not worried about falling behind other bids. ‘One of the wonderful things about being based in the UK is that we are blessed with a wide selection of talented people working in PR and comms,’ he said. ‘We have no concern about finding the right level of creativity.’
Hill & Knowlton MD of sports, marketing and sponsorship Andy Sutherden said: ‘They’re trying to get their own house in order and prepare for a launch in the next month or two.’
He added: ‘The plan is for a political campaign targeting the 24 individuals on the FIFA committee.
‘Although in this country, it is much more emotional – the FA will be looking for help in managing news.’
Public affairs expertise is expected to play a large part in any pitch.
Agencies expected to work on a World Cup bid include Burson-Marsteller, which handled Korea’s 2002 World Cup bid.
Hill & Knowlton is also in talks with a number of parties, while Vero or Bell Pottinger are both thought to be favourites for England’s bid.
US The US Soccer Federation has met with eight of ‘the usual suspects’ and is expected to make a decision within two weeks.
Russia Weber Shandwick is said to be favourite, after its success at gaining Sochi the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. ‘They tend to stick with who they know,’ said one source.
Australia Football Federation Australia does not intend to appoint a retained agency, although it may use support for specific activities.
Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Holland The two joint bids are understood to have gone out to pitch.
£15m Projected budget for England 2018 World Cup bid
£5m FA’s requested government contribution (unconfirmed)
£22m State support for Australia’s 2018 World Cup bid
2 Countries bidding for the 2022 World Cup on their own
9 Countries bidding jointly for 2018 and 2022 World Cups