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Soccer-Government back Australia's 2018 World Cup bid

SYDNEY, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Australia’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup has received a major boost with the federal government announcing it would help fund the campaign.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Australia faced a difficult challenge convincing soccer’s power brokers to award them the tournament but the government was prepared to offer financial support.

“Winning the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup is a Herculean task but overcoming tough odds is what Australian football does best,” Rudd said in a statement published in Australian newspapers on Sunday.

“For an Australian World Cup bid to be successful, the FFA (Football Federation Australia) will need the full and united support of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments.

“A bid to host the 2018 World Cup is a natural follow-on from the brilliant performance of the Socceroos at the 2006 World Cup and the success of the (domestic) A-League.” FFA Chairman Frank Lowy welcomed the government’s support, saying hosting the World Cup would bring major economic benefits to the whole country.

“Apart from the benefits for the sport, there are also significant benefits for the nation in terms of economic impact, international prestige and contribution to nation building and social inclusion,” Lowy said.

“To realise these benefits, there is also need for investment and that is why we welcome the Government’s support today.”

Although Australia has not hosted a major international soccer tournament before, the country has successfully staged rugby and cricket world cups as well the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games.

FACILITIES AUDIT

Chief executive Ben Buckley said the FFA had already commenced an audit of stadiums, training facilities, accommodation, public transport and other infrastructure to determine the level of readiness.

“The preparations for a World Cup bid are very significant, and have a long lead time. We are moving early to position ourselves for a successful bid outcome,” Buckley said.

A number of countries, including the United States, China, Russia, England, Belgium, Netherlands and Mexico have already indicated they are interested in bidding for the tournament after FIFA scrapped their rotational policy.

Bids have to be formally submitted next year with the winner to be announced in 2011.

Asian Football Confederation President Mohamed Bin Hammam said last year that if the Asian region was to be successful, the entire region should support a single country’s bid.

“Australia would be a very good venue for the World Cup,” Bin Hammam told reporters at a meeting in Sydney last year. “I would not hesitate at all to invite other countries to support a bid from Australia.

“I think we do have a chance if we have one candidate and I would be happy with one bid from Australia.”

Australia will get an early chance to push their claims for staging the World Cup when Sydney hosts the FIFA Congress in May this year.

Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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