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Chancellor's World Cup fever fails to grip the Scots

GORDON Brown's fellow Scots do not share his enthusiasm for England hosting the football World Cup, according to the Chancellor's own poll.

Mr Brown yesterday confirmed his government will support an English bid for the 2018 tournament, a move critics denounced as another attempt to appeal to English voters before he replaces Tony Blair in the summer.

And as he formally declared his backing yesterday, Mr Brown once again risked igniting debate over his national loyalties, recalling the moment when "we won the World Cup in 1966."

Mr Brown has been hinting at supporting the English 2018 bid for some time, and yesterday a Treasury feasibility study that suggested an application for the tournament would be a good idea.

In particular, the study concludes that "there is a solid foundation of public support for England pursuing a bid."

But an opinion poll commissioned by the Treasury shows that support is far from uniform across the UK.

A total of 59 per cent of English voters support the bid, with support in London put at 68 per cent.

But in a stark contrast, only 34 per cent of Scots support the English bid. Some 15 per cent are actively hostile, but the majority - 51 per cent - simply don't care.

Those opinions may not concern Mr Brown, however, as the Chancellor appears intent on demonstrating how much he identifies with English voters.

"I have been around the world, I have been in Asia, America and Europe, and I think there is great support for England having it 50 years after we won the World Cup in 1966," Mr Brown said yesterday.

Unlike the 2012 Olympics in London which have required substantial government subsidy, it is believed the World Cup will be largely funded by the Football Association.

Stewart Maxwell MSP, the Scottish National Party's culture spokesman, said: "Good luck to England, but I suspect that Gordon Brown's support for the bid is more about politics than sport, and his desire to ingratiate himself with the English electorate in his desperation to get into No 10."

Members of the tartan army were also unimpressed with Mr Brown's stance, contrasting it with what they saw as his lukewarm support for Scotland's own failed bid to act as hosts for the Euro 2008 tournament.

"My problem isn't really with Brown supporting the bid. The fact is that he will be Prime Minister of Britain so it's only to be expected that he does support it," said one contributor to a tartan army internet chatroom. "My main problem is that he didn't support Scotland's 2008 bid."

Another described Mr Brown's warm words about England's victory in the 1966 Word Cup as "cringe- worthy."

No decision on the awarding of the tournament is likely for another four years at least.

And Hugh Robertson, the Conservative sports spokesman, questioned the Chancellor's motives.

"Given that no decision on the 2018 World Cup is due until 2011 and that this should have been done on a cross-party basis, this can only be seen as a very silly publicity stunt," he said.

Before yesterday's report was released, Treasury sources had suggested that Scottish stadia including Hampden Park might be able to host some games in an English tournament. But yesterday's document made clear that the all games would be played at English grounds.

 
 
 

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