Duncan Mackay

altAs someone closely involved in Manchester's bid to host the 2000 Olympics when bidding had become a byword for excess, Graham Stringer is better qualified than most to pass judgment on when something has been polluted by greed, self-interest and chicanery.

So when the MP for Manchester Blackley claims that the current beauty parade the Football Association is forcing 16 cities and towns across England who want to be involved in the 2018 World Cup campaign take part in is a "ludicrous waste of public money" then he should be listened too closely.

Stringer's argument is that it is ridiculous that a city like Manchester, steeped in the tradition of the sport and which in Old Trafford and the City of Manchester Stadium is home to two of the finest stadiums in Europe, is being made to have to undergo the same process as Milton Keynes, where its connection with professional football stretches back barely five years, to be considered as fit and proper candidate to be involved in 2018.

The former Leader of Manchester City Council quite rightly claims that a World Cup in England would need Old Trafford, which, with a capacity of 76,212, the largest in the country outside Wembley, would stage one of the two semi-finals, far more than it needs the World Cup. The City of Manchester Stadium, with a capacity of 47,726 and which was judged good enough to have hosted the UEFA Cup final last year, would, at the very least, stage group matches, surely.

So why has Manchester City Council been forced to set-up a special bid committee at the cost of £150,000 to the local taxpayer to try to persuade a series of visiting delegations from the FA that they should be chosen as a host city? It is complete madness and no-one anywhere in football would take seriously an England bid that did not include in its plans Old Trafford, the home of three-time European champions Manchester United and who have produced players such as Bobby Charlton, George Best and David Beckham, superstars with instant name recognition around the globe.

There is, after all, a reason why the Nou Camp and the Santiago Bernabeau are already confirmed as part of the joint bid for 2018 from Spain and Portugal.

The whole idea of asking cities and towns to audition to become part of the campaign was originally devised as an X-Factor style competition to try to help build support for England's World Cup bid and make the whole country feel part of it. Instead, it seems to me, it has led to the campaign becoming distracted and focused to an unhealthy extent on local issues rather than on the bigger picture, which is persuading the 24 members of FIFA's Executive Committee to vote for England.

If you read the local newspapers up and down the country frantically lobbying for their respective cities and towns you might be under the impression that England have already been awarded the 2018 World Cup. Not that it is still very much in the balance, up against as it is against incredibly strong rivals, like the Spain and Portugal, and Australia and Russia, which offers the football world the exciting prospect of emerging markets, and the United States, with the possibility of lucrative multi-billion dollar marketing and television deals.

In the last couple of days alone the following have landed in my in-box from cities who are trying to impress the FA enough to be included in the bid:

Sunderland have launched a "high-profile poster campaign....as local businesses throw their weight behind Wearside's bid to host matches at the 2018 World Cup"

"Mersey football managers Rafa Benitez and David Moyes [have] rallied behind Liverpool’s bid to become a host city for the 2018 World Cup" [If sure he were asked in his native Madrid who would want to stage the tournament, I am sure Benitez would tell the press there he is backing the Spanish bid]

"Nothing quite marks a special occasion like a piece of fine bone china....That is why Royal Crown Derby has said it would be delighted to create a decorative piece for the 2018 football World Cup - should matches be played in Derby"

●  "Following her gold medal win in Berlin, Jessica Ennis - Britain’s newly crowned world heptathlon champion, has pledged to support her home city of Sheffield and its bid to host World Cup games in 2018"

altAnd finally, my personal favourite, "There is nothing cunning about Bristol's plan to host World Cup football in 2018; just bold ambition from a heartland of football, according to Blackadder and Time Team's Tony Robinson. Robinson said: 'Let's hope that in 100 years time, when archaeologists dig Bristol, they will find the long-discarded programmes from some of the legendary 2018 World Cup matches'." Not very environmentally friendly, I would suggest, but I get Baldrick's point.

There is nothing wrong with any of these campaigns - some of which are amusingly novel and designed to appeal to an audience not in love with the beautiful game [there are some, I am told] - and it is encouraging that there is clearly so much enthusiasm for the idea of England hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1966. Indeed, there appears to be far more appetite for a World Cup at this stage of the campaign than there was for London's 2012 Olympic bid at a similar stage six years ago.

But perhaps that was because London 2012, under the astute guidance of Sebastian Coe and Keith Mills [he was just a plain old Mr back then], were concentrating more of their efforts on the global campaign, winning the hearts and minds of the overseas voters who ultimately made the decision, rather than just making the bid look good to a local audience.

England's last bid to host the World Cup ended in acrimony and embarrassment in 2000 when they were eliminated in the second FIFA ballot with only two votes as bitter rivals Germany went on to be awarded the tournament. The banners proclaiming "Football's Coming Home" were hanging decidedly limp after that.

That slogan has mercifully been dropped and the FA have tried to do much more since then to improve relations with other foreign FA's, including investing heavily in development courses in the Third World as they have attempted to shake off their reputation for arrogance and complacency.

But, like London's 2012 Olympic bid, the FA have to create a reason for people to vote for them: Find a story, stick to it and sell it with conviction. England need to find an angle, probably focused on the excellence of the facilities and the passion of the fans. They have certainly ignited that passion but, as Stringer has quite rightly identified, let's not lose sight of what this is about, which should be bringing the World Cup back to these shores for the first time in more than half-a-century - not wasting taxpayers money on useless PR exercises.

Duncan Mackay is the publisher and editor of insidethegames.biz. He was the 2004 British Sports Journalist of the Year and was the athletics correspondent of The Guardian for 11 years, being the only British daily newspaper writer to correctly predict in 2005 that London's Olympic bid would be successful.