November 21, 2012

BURTON-ON-TRENT, England (AP) -More than a year after the leaders of English football tried to block his re-election, FIFA President Sepp Blatter signaled an end to the tensions between the two sides on Wednesday at the England team's new training base.

Blatter, who was booed by fans during his last visit to England during the London Olympics, visited St. George's Park on Wednesday. FIFA contributed $500,000 toward the medical center at the training ground.

Relations between FIFA and England were strained last year when the Football Association tried to block Blatter's re-election amid corruption scandals, while the FIFA president hit out at English "arrogance'' after their failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

But Blatter said Wednesday that there is no lingering animosity.

"When there are human beings from time to time relations are not as such as they should be in a very educated family,'' Blatter said. "But when you are able then to bring everybody back to the same level, and this has been done in the past now with FIFA and the FA, we are very happy to participate with the creation of this wonderful St. George's Park.''

Blatter went on a two-hour tour of the facility in central England with FA chairman David Bernstein, who led moves in 2011 to halt Blatter's re-election.

"What we witness today is not only a co-operation at the footballing level,'' Blatter said. "It is on friendship ... don't go back to the past. Now we are living a wonderful day. It's the present.''

The FA carries significant weight in world football due to its position on the rule-making International Football Association Board. FIFA has four votes, and England is one of the four U.K. nations with the other votes to change the game.

"You are a good partner of football,'' Blatter said. "Perceived arrogance is something that has nothing to do with our game. Our game is one that has been organized in England.''

And Blatter spoke fondly of his trip to the Olympics in July and August, and how the country coped with mass crowds.

"The catalyst for the best relationship we can have is football,'' Blatter said. "And the big catalyst was the Olympic football tournament. The Olympic football tournament was witnessed by more than 2 million people, more than any other sport.

"I would be so happy if this Olympic spirit, where in the stadia there was not one single problem, would be transported - not in Great Britain - but all around the world, where in all football matches you can sit together and there are no clashes or disputes.''

England has twice failed to bring the World Cup back to the country which staged the tournament in 1966, mostly recently in December 2010.

"They can have a World Cup. Sure, they are able to organize England with all these stadia and what they have shown now with the Olympics,'' Blatter said.

The FA also wants to stage matches at the 2020 European Championship after UEFA President Michel Platini proposed scattering matches across as many as 12 countries, rather than selecting a single host nation.

"They seem to be moving along the route of having a cross-border competition and we will have to judge at some stage whether we try and get the semifinals and final or to be one of the countries that will hold three or four games,'' Bernstein said, a day after meeting Platini. "We will probably have a choice as to whether we go for one or either or both.''

The FA defended applying for a $500,000 donation from FIFA's Goal program to fund part of its 100 million pound ($160 million) national football center, which is the permanent home for all 24 of England's senior and junior teams as well as a training base for aspiring coaches.

"(Goal) is completely global. It's 209 countries. It's available to you all. Please apply,'' FA general secretary Alex Horne said he was told by FIFA. "African countries have had on average three or four grants per country and in Europe it's one and a bit.

"We spoke to them about the process and they said the project fitted the category. It's half a million dollars. The reason that's important is that our money goes back into developing football in England so any contribution from FIFA that is eligible, why not take it.''

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