The Sweeper: England’s World Cup Bid Goes Against Its History

Milton Keynes

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There’s more positivity to England’s World Cup bid after yesterday’s announcement of the candidate cities, with Henry Winter excitedly writing in the Telegraph that “England can play down ace after ace.”

But there is plenty of negative commentary too. In the comments on our post yesterday about the surprising inclusion of Plymouth as a candidate city, Penfold wrote a long and thoughtful commentary on what he called the other more controversial choices: Milton Keynes, Hillsborough and Elland Road. The first, as we commented in the Sweeper yesterday, is undoubtedly the most disturbing inclusion of all. Penfold’s comment is worth quoting in full:

MK Dons and MK Stadium, let us not forget, only exist due to the despicable decision to allow a franchise to enter English football. This is not something we should be promoting in the home of football – a particular aspect the FA continue to peddle in it’s bid for the 2018 World Cup. The Guardian provides a good comment on the inclusion of this stadium right here. Coupled with this is the fact that Milton Keynes is a god-awful ‘new’ town lacking any sort of character, ambience or charm.

It is indeed a bizarre choice in terms of England’s World Cup bid’s considerable reliance on the tradition of football as a key selling point. MK Dons attempted erasure of Wimbledon’s history and identity is something we’ve covered extensively here before, and Two Hundred percent has a lot on the strong reaction against the inclusion of Milton Keynes.

Milton Keynes’ page on England’s official World Cup bid site of course does not mention how MK Dons came into being, instead saying that “It’s our vision and willingness to think differently that in 2004 saw Milton Keynes become England’s newest football city with the formation of the MK Dons, who in 2007 moved to the state of the art stadium:mk.” I think that nonsense speaks for itself. As Barney Roney says at the Guardian, “Including Stadium MK ahead of failed bids by Derby, Hull and Leicester is a stamp of legitimacy for the controversial project overseen by Dons owner Pete Winkleman.”

Henry Winter also comments on the “the exciting legacy potential” of including Milton Keynes. But the unhappy legacy they already have is not one that should be included in England’s World Cup bid in the first place.

Worldwide News

  • There is a lot more in today’s British press on Mick McCarthy’s weakened Wolves side at Old Trafford, with many defending the decision, pointing out the team still had six internationals and that, as Paul Wilson puts it, this may have been their strongest side in terms of fitness concerns. Tony Cascarino, though, takes the opposite view, urging the Premier League to punish Wolves.
  • Matt Scott has the latest on Liverpool’s owners’ efforts to pull themselves out of the financial hole they have dug themselves, caustically writing that “Apparently, despite all evidence to the contrary, the co-owners believe Liverpool to be worth of £500m to £600m. So for that £62m you can buy yourself a little over 10% of a club that still has to spend more than £300m on building a new stadium.”
  • Paul James has a piece on the (re)rise of the Vancouver Whitecaps that’s interesting enough, but quite remarkable for its doughy-eyed enthusiasm while also managing to take a sideswipe already at Toronto FC on the “professionalism” of the organisation.

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

7 thoughts on “The Sweeper: England’s World Cup Bid Goes Against Its History

  1. Bobby

    I really hope they don’t pick MK, honestly I hope it’s just there to fill room. Leicester may not be glamorous — not to say Milton Keynes is — but it’s far more deserving in a purely football sense.

    What surprised me, and I know you have roots in that area, was the lack of a stadium on the south coast — unless you count Home Park, but that’s pretty far-flung from Brighton, Portsmouth, and Southampton — I thought Brighton’s new stadium would at least get a look, or at the very least, an expanded St. Mary’s.

  2. Tom Dunmore Post author

    Bobby — agreed on Leicester. As for the south coast, that’s an interesting point, though one has to admit it’s not exactly a hotbed of the sport. Brighton’s stadium would have needed almost as much expansion as Home Park, and given the financial investment that’s already been made just to get the damn thing (almost) built, I’m kind of glad they’re not throwing away millions more for a one-off event.

    Indeed, the bigger question might just be how worthwhile it would be for these smaller clubs to spend so much (the bid itself costs a quarter of a million to be a part of) on a bid. As mentioned yesterday, Plymouth’s plans for Home Park include a number of new events that may drive the groundsman mad.

  3. Bobby

    It reminds me a bit of Bari and the massive stadium the city built for Italia ’90. That’s not a slight at Plymouth, but I don’t think it attracts enough supporters on a regular basis to justify a massive ground.

    I once saw an interview with a Livingston fan who said, “Yea, I used to support Hearts”. Chances are, he’s not at Almondvale these days. MK needs to keep that in mind, because they have plenty of “supporters” that “used to support” Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool or Tottenham.

  4. ursus arctos

    I also thought of Bari once I saw the plans for New Home Park.

    One difference is that Argyle aren’t owned by (and the Premier League is not chaired by) members of the family that owned the construction firm that built the San Nicola.

    It’s also worth keeping in mind that the San Nicola has never in its history sold out (whether for the World Cup, Bari, Juventus matches in exile (one of the biggest draws), the Azzurri, or any non-football event).

  5. Kevin Hennessy

    Don’t know about Barney Ronay’s comment being a good one, bit lazy and cliched to tell the truth, the stadium is not on the outskirts of town, it’s closer to the town centre than it is to the town’s boundaries. Furthermore the Dons have played in the 2nd tier of English league football in their early days, and as to the stadium being similar to the IKEA store, well it’s a nonsense, from what I can see, and from what I’ve been told by those who’ve been there, it seems a nice ground.

    I’ve never been to the stadium, and have no intention of doing so, hailing as I do from South West London and born in Wimbledon itself my sympathies will always lie with AFCW in that particular spat, but a little objectivity on the part of Mr Ronay would surely have been preferable to the predictable twaddle that his piece contained.

    I’m not really bothered one way or the other if MK is chosen to host games should England win the bid and wish the Dons nothing but relegation and ultimate extinction, a sentiment more common than you may imagine in MK itself, but it’s not a bad place to live and not as soulless and bland as some would have you believe, but then I guess you’d actually have to visit the town to know that.

    With regard to Bobby’s Livingston comment, it’s always a source of great fun to ask a Dons “supporter” who they used to support, gets ‘em every time.

  6. Jeff

    Listen, I have to say this – the collective English freakout over Wimbledon’s moving to Milton Keynes really amuses this American observer. This kind of thing happens all the time in American sports. Most recently, the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics got – let’s call a spade a spade here – stolen from Seattle and moved to Oklahoma City and the objections to that move are all but nonexistent with the exception of Seattleites themselves and sports columnist Bill Simmons.

    And as for “history being erased” or whatever, let me ask you this – how many Arizona Cardinals fans know that their team got there via St. Louis and Chicago?

  7. Tom Dunmore Post author

    Jeff — it’s exactly because of the American example that English fans are up in arms about the concept of franchising gaining ground as a respectable part of the sports business in their country. English fans don’t want businessmen to be able to come in and steal their clubs away, as you say, with just a few people speaking out — making it much easier for it to happen anywhere again.

    Part of keeping that from happening is a vocal opposition to the entire concept, based on the history of the sporting teams being tied to local roots.