Time to bring the cup home: It’s England v Germany and South Africa, but the battle to host the 2006 World Cup requires a strategy far removed from the playing fields. Suzan Leavy talks to the brains behind the bid

As the 1998 World Cup reaches its climax Alec McGivan, campaign director of England’s 2006 bid to host the competition, must be considering any lessons that can be learnt from France 98.

As the 1998 World Cup reaches its climax Alec McGivan, campaign

director of England’s 2006 bid to host the competition, must be

considering any lessons that can be learnt from France 98.



The campaign will require some well-targeted ’persuasion’ at a national

and international level. McGivan is now heading a pounds 10 million

PR-led campaign which will employ every tool in the PR armoury, from

media relations and promotions to public affairs, to convince the most

powerful men in football that England should host the World Cup in

2006.



McGivan was recruited by David Davies at the Football Association (FA)

just over three years ago to organise media relations for Euro 96. A

former national organiser of the SDP, McGivan was responsible for a

number of successful by-election campaigns in the 1980s and it was this

political campaigning savvy which prompted the FA to give him the 2006

job.



’This bid is very much about politics and has very little to do with

football. Football is the World Cup, but to get the World Cup you have

to do quite a bit of lobbying and, in that sense, this is territory that

the FA is not particularly familiar with,’ he says.



Nearly 200 countries play what Pele calls ’the beautiful game’ and they

are divided into six confederations.



The decision on the host country for the 2006 World Cup will be made by

the members of governing body FIFA’s executive committee, which

comprises 24 representatives from the six confederations. McGivan is

bidding against Germany and South Africa. He knows he must not only

appeal directly to the members of FIFA’s committee, but also to any

outside influencers, to win the backing of at least 13 of the 24

representatives.



’The heart of our target is the 24 men on the executive committee. I see

it as a target with them in the middle, then there are the other movers

and shakers in world football and outside of that there is public

opinion and the media,’ he says. ’A key element in our strategy early on

was to have face-to-face discussions with these individuals in their own

countries. We felt it was very important to go to see them. We are the

only country which has done that and I think we have won a lot of

friends and admiration around the world because of it.’



Newly-elected FIFA president Sepp Blatter has already said that the

recent behaviour of some England fans will not affect the country’s

chances of hosting the tournament. The groundwork carried out by McGivan

and his team may have done much to limit the damage caused to English

football’s reputation by the pitched battles in Marseilles - although

Germany’s bid can hardly have been helped by the behaviour of some of

its followers either.



However, England’s bid has attracted controversy since the FA first

announced its intentions after hosting Euro 96. Its old footballing foe

Germany cried ’foul’ and claimed the existence of a ’gentleman’s

agreement’ whereby England would host the 1996 European championships

leaving Germany free to bid for 2006. The FA claimed that there was no

such agreement and that Euro 96 had to be staged successfully before

England could consider putting forward its bid for the World Cup.



UEFA, the European confederation, backed the Germans and there followed

bitter recriminations from both sides, with such high profile figures as

Chancellor Kohl and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, to John

Major and Tony Blair voicing their displeasure in the press.



Possible solutions included a proposal that England and Germany could

stage a joint bid until FIFA came out and publicly stated that it would

not be dictated to by the confederations and that any FIFA-affiliated

association had the right to bid.



The situation generated acres of press coverage and revealed the

importance to campaigners of media relations and keeping those involved

’on message’.



Press interest in football has never been greater and this, admits

McGivan, can be a hindrance as much as a help.



’In England we have managed to maintain a fairly coherent strategy

considering the number of people involved. As well as the FA, there is

also the Government and business leaders, such as BA’s Sir Colin

Marshall. At any point any number of people could be asked to react to

something, so we have produced briefing documents to make sure that key

people know what our position is.’



’But inevitably, football is such big business that we are always

slightly at the mercy of someone saying something without thinking. It

has been a conscious policy decision to talk in a positive way about our

bid, but if someone like Franz Beckenbauer comes up with a comment,

people will be asked to react and we have to control that from here as

best as we can.’



Perhaps predictably, the campaign has the support of Government but

McGivan is at pains to point out that this extends beyond the ’Personal

message from the Prime Minister’ in England’s glossy bid brochure. The

team has access to the British Embassy network all over the world and

can call on ambassadors to help make contacts with various

companies.



The FA has called up England’s own footballing legends in Sir Bobby

Charlton, Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker OBE to front the bid, which

focuses on England as the birthplace of football, with Wembley as its

cathedral.



But McGivan believes that the campaign must not dwell on the past. In a

unique move, he has brought together a behind-the-scenes think-tank of

PR and advertising professionals to help with strategy.



Members include Dick Newby of Matrix, Paul Barber of Inchcape and Adam

Crozier, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi. They are all bound by a love of

football and indeed are so devoted to the cause that they are giving

their time for nothing. And as McGivan points out, he was looking for a

certain professional input that simply could not be provided by a single

agency.



’We may employ agencies at some point for particular projects, but I

want the group to carry on controlling the overall thinking and

strategy.



It is a completely different animal to what I suspect most PR

organisations are used to. We have spoken to some but they seem to think

they know what we want before we’ve even said anything.



’We need to give people a flavour of the environment in England and need

to create an image of what the World Cup could be like. I’ve also got

Michael Grade, Melvyn Bragg and people of that sort of celebrity status

to give some thought to the whole question of how we can create a theme

for the World Cup in this country, as part of my policy to make this bid

a national effort,’ says McGivan. ’This is a unique project and

therefore agencies that help us will have to understand that is our

view. They have to listen and get their minds around the real issues of

what this is about.



That is why I am so glad that the think-tank consists of people who are

involved for all the right reasons,’ he adds.



Indeed, as Paul Barber admits: ’I’ve been a football fan since I was a

child and it sounds corny but if in 2006 the World Cup is held in

England, that really would be payment enough for me.’



GAME PLAN: WHY ENGLAND SHOULD WIN



In its publicity material, the bid team has identified six key reasons

why it believes England has to be FIFA’s choice to host the tournament

eight years from now:



- England is the home of football. It was the birthplace of the game and

of the world’s first Football Association formed by 11 clubs in London

in 1863. In 1888 the world’s first football league was created.



Despite the scenes at this year’s World Cup, English football has

undergone a radical image change since the violence-dominated days of

the mid-1970s.



Attendance at League matches have increased every season since 1986/87

and in the 1995/96 season, 21.8 million people watched League games in

England.



- Euro 96 was a major success, both financially - with an overall profit

of around pounds 69 million - and by virtue of being trouble-free. It

was acknowledged as ’the best European Championships ever’ by UEFA

President Lennart Johansson and the German Football Association even

placed an advertisement in the Times after the event in appreciation of

English hospitality, fair play and smooth organisation. England had to

prove it could stage Euro 96 before bidding for the World Cup and the

tournament symbolised England’s re-emergence on to the world football

stage.



- England’s grounds are the best in the world. Around pounds 600 million

has been spent on transforming English football grounds following the

Hillsborough disaster in 1989 and the Taylor Report in 1990. Some

grounds, such as Anfield and Old Trafford, are regarded as shrines by

football fans worldwide.



- Wembley Stadium is about to be rebuilt at a cost of pounds 200

million. ’Wembley is the church of football. It is the capital of

football and it is the heart of football,’ said Pele and it is the venue

where most great footballers want to play. By 2002, Wembley will have a

new 80,000 capacity and the addition of a roof.



- The World Cup in England would take place in grounds where there are

no fences. The proximity of the fans to the pitch creates a unique

atmosphere which many observers at Euro 96 commented on. In that

tournament many visitors were experiencing barrier free grounds for the

first time. Most German stadia have fencing, as do those in France,

Spain, Italy and Holland.



- England’s obvious appeal as a top tourist destination and the ease

with which visitors can move around the whole country.



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