From Keir Radnedge, Sports Features Communications
English football is about to confront what is arguably a more important World Cup week than the opening stage of the finals in South Africa in June.
A six-strong inspection delegation from world federation FIFA will roll up on the latest stage of its round-the-world whistlestop tour to assess the strengths and weaknesses of all the nations hoping to host the event in both 2018 and 2022.
So far the team led by Chilean federation president Harold Mayne-Nicholls has visited Japan, South Korea, Australia, Holland and Belgium, and Russia. From England they will travel on to Spain and Portugal, the United States and Qatar.
England’s bid is generally regarded as the most technically and commercially advantaged but less effective politically – an impression not helped by the kiss-and-tell scandal which forced the resignation of bid and FA leader Lord Triesman.
The inspectors will be welcomed to No10 Downing Street by Nick Clegg in the absence of holidaying Prime Minister David Cameron and then travel on to check out facilities, infrastructure and plans at Wembley, Manchester, Sunderland and Newcastle.
England is proposing 12 candidate host cities and chief executive Andy Anson said: “The cities to be visited are intended to provide the most efficient and productive route around the country for FIFA’s inspection team. We believe we are presenting the best of English facilities and an honest reflection of what we are offering across the length and breadth of the country.
“England’s bid is based around stadiums and facilities that are already in place and already being used on a regular basis and so there is minimal construction and planning required.”
This latter point carries extra significance after Mayne-Nicholls’s departing words in Russia, which is considered England’s main rival for 2018. He cautioned the Russians to step up the pace of preparatory work since significant construction is needed – and England will provide a striking contrast.
Support for the bid, during the visit, will be evidence by the England team whose official charity is making a financial contribution to setting up the first International Centre for Disability Football.
This is one of England’s key legacy projects along with a global fund known as Football United which will engage people all over the world in fund raising activities to be invested in football and social programmes aligned to FIFA’s aims.
December 2 in Zurich will see FIFA’s executive commitment decide on the – probably European – host nation for 2018 and also the host for 2022.