The six FIFA men are more than halfway on their world tour to inspect bidder nations before the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups are announced in Zurich on December 2nd.
Today they completed their four day inspection in England, with a press conference in Manchester, after a lavish dinner in Manchester Town Hall last night, and move on to Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium, who are considered outsiders. They then travel to USA which has the best chance of landing the 2022 tournament.
Harald Mayne-Nicholls, a former journalist and current President of the Chilean Football Federation is the group leader. He has worked at World Cups since 1998 for FIFA in various roles and has English blood in his veins. His grandfather is from Falmouth, Cornwell before setting sail for South America to built railways. The Prime Minister had been criticised in some quarters for not welcoming the team to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, but the next day his wife Samantha gave birth to a baby girl in a hospital in Truro, Cornwall by Caesarean section, and they named her after the Cornish village where they spent many vacations. Florence Rose Endellian That's a pretty good reason.
Other members include Danny Jordaan the South Africa World Cup CEO of the local Organizing Committee and a former M.P. Jurgen Muller, head of events at FIFA ,who helped organize EURO 2008, Wolfgang Eichler FIFA Media Officer, David Fowler Head of FIFA Marketing.
One of the very few women involved is KADRA EDGE, the Brent based community coach who presented England's bid in Zurich last May. Brent is where Wembley Stadium is located. "My community is Muslim, female, black and you get discrimination. The football I fought for overcame that".
The group went to Wembley via the Jubilee Line tube, and then up Wembley Way by black taxis. They returned to Central London by limo in 29 minutes, far quicker then the 3 1/2 hours it took from Sandton to Soccer City for them and other VIP's prior to the 2010 Opening Ceremony.
A luxury helicopter ride took them over Milton Keynes Stadium, City Ground, Nottingham and Elland Road Leeds and Hillsborough, Sheffield. They landed at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland for a tour and then to St. James Park, Newcastle. At the 1966 World Cup in England, both Elland Road and St. James Park were not considered adequate and the group that included Chile, Soviet Union, North Korea and Italy played at the old Roker Park, Sunderland and at Ayeseome Park, Middlesborough, now demolished and a housing estate. I was at the memorable match North Korea 1 v Italy 0.
The helicopter took them across The Pennines to Manchester, with visits to City of Manchester Stadium and Old Trafford. In 1966 I went to stand on the Stretford End for 10 shillings (50 p)to watch Portugal v Hungary. Old Trafford, Manchester was considered the second location in the north-west after Goodison Park, Everton, which hosted all three of Brazil's group matches against Portugal, Hungary and Bulgaria. If England gets the bid Old Trafford ,with its greater capacity, would probably get more matches, including a semi-final.
FIFA World Cup regulations only allow ONE city to use two stadiums, so City of Manchester Stadium at Eastlands would lose out. The two stadium city would be London, with Wembley and one other. Either The Emirates(they would not be allowed that name, probably reverting to Arsenal Stadium,) or Tottenham Hotspurs' proposed new home, or The 2012 Olympic Stadium.
Transportation in England is superb, with train travel in two-three hours at the most, and also lots of long distance buses, many airports and local light rail or underground.
The Russian bid, which was mostly images of proposed stadiums, infrastructure, high speed trains and lots of imagination, has very little in place or under construction. for the 24 man FIFA Executive Committee that meets in less than 100 days, it would be a political decision not based on common sense if England didn't get the necessary votes.