England ready to host 2022 World Cup

British Prime Minister David Cameron has hinted that England could host the 2022 World Cup if Qatar loses it.

British Prime Minister David Cameron chats to England coach Roy Hodgson, and footballers Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Picture: Facebook.com

LONDON - Prime Minister David Cameron dropped the strongest hint yet that Britain could offer to host the 2022 football World Cup if Qatar loses it, saying on Thursday England would be "happy to find a home" for one of its traditional sports.

World football governing body FIFA is investigating the bids that awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and the 2018 Cup to Russia, including allegations that bribes were paid to secure the Qatari bid. Several top football officials have said Qatar could be stripped of the tournament if corruption is found.

When asked at a G7 news conference in Brussels alongside US President Barack Obama whether Qatar should lose its right to hold the tournament - and if Britain would be ready to host it instead - Cameron said:

"On the issue of football, we should let the investigation run its course. But of course England is the home of football, as it is the home and inventor of many sports: tennis, rugby, golf, skiing, table tennis, cricket ..."

Cameron was interrupted by Obama, who quipped that baseball and basketball might not be British inventions. The British prime minister continued: "So we are always happy to find a home for these sports."

Qatar's 2022 bid attracted controversy from the outset because of the tiny country's extreme summer heat and its lack of a domestic footballing tradition.

This week, the Sunday Times newspaper published what it said were excerpts from leaked emails and financial accounts showing millions of pounds were spent in bribes to persuade football officials to vote for Qatar's bid. Qatar denies the accusations.

A former U.S. prosecutor leading FIFA's investigation is expected to deliver his report in July, about a week after the end of the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.

The 2022 and 2018 World Cups were awarded on the same day in 2010. Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States lost out to Qatar for the 2022 tournament. England made a failed bid for 2018, with Cameron personally lobbying for its case.

European soccer chief Michel Platini, one of the most prominent figures to vote four years ago to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, has called for the vote to be held again if allegations of corruption in Qatar's bid are proved.

World soccer governing body FIFA is investigating the bids that awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and the 2018 Cup to Russia, including allegations that bribes were paid to secure the Qatari bid.

A former US prosecutor is due to deliver a report in July, about a week after the end of the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, which could see Qatar stripped of the Cup.

"Should corruption be proven, it will take a new vote and sanctions," Platini, a French former soccer legend who now heads European soccer governing body UEFA, told sports daily L'Equipe, the first time he has backed potentially moving the Cup.

Qatar's 2022 bid has long been under fire because the tiny country has no soccer tradition, few domestic fans and summer temperatures of more than 50 degrees Celsius during the months when the World Cup is played.

This week, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper published what it said were excerpts from leaked emails and financial accounts showing millions of pounds were spent in bribes to persuade soccer officials to vote for Qatar's bid.

Qatar's bid team denies the accusations.

In his interview, Platini defended his decision to back the Qatari bid at the vote in 2010: "I do not regret anything, I think it was the right choice for FIFA and for world football."

Qatar beat rival bids from Australia, Japan, the United States and South Korea to stage the 2022 World Cup.