(ATR) FIFA inspection chief Harold Mayne-Nicholls praises England’s World Cup bid team for organizing a "perfect" tour of the country’s bid to host the 2018 finals.
He said that he was "positive" an English World Cup "would be a great experience with a long lasting legacy for its people, as well as for football worldwide".
Mayne-Nicholls broke with protocol observed on previous inspection visits, eschewing the usual bland statements to give a glowing assessment of his team’s four-day visit.
The Chilean FA president was effusive in his praise of "the passion and dedication of the [English] football family", its "world-class" pitches, and the selection of football aristocracy brought out to meet the FIFA team.
But it was his comments about the England bid’s commitment to football legacy that were most striking.
Previously considered a weak point of the England bid, Mayne-Nicholls said the commitment to social and sporting legacy was "for sure one thing that we positively comment upon to the FIFA Executive Committee".
"As you know, football is all about partnership," Mayne-Nicholls said in his closing statement wrapping up FIFA's inspection.
"It was great to see that all of the big clubs run big social projects, trying to involve as many youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds as possible.
"This kind of group approach of your programme - football united - included in the bid to improved living conditions, to improve social structures and take it to the world is very important to FIFA."
Mayne-Nicholls said that he and his team, which included South Africa 2010 CEO Danny Jordaan, had no concerns about transportation, safety or security.
He added that he "trusted" that England would fulfil its accommodation obligations to FIFA.
He said that the concept of English league clubs hosting the 32 participant World Cup teams made "perfect sense" to the inspection team.
"It will guarantee that all the teams will be able to practice in perfect conditions," he added.
He also praised England’s bid team for their organization of the visit.
"They have organized the visit in a perfect way, with great professionalism,but also with a great sense of friendship and hospitality," he said.
"We can positively sum up that all the needs and objects of our visit were met and we are positive that a World Cup in England in 2018 or 2022 would be a great experience with a long lasting legacy for its people, as well as for football worldwide."
Mayne-Nicholls comments came in Manchester, one of four cities visited by FIFA this week. London, Newcastle and Sunderland were the others.
In his statement, England 2018 CEO Andy Anson said that his bid team was taking nothing for granted, insisting: "We must improve what we have and we will do."
He promised to replicate with FIFA the strong partnership that the bid team have with 12 prospective host cities should England’s bid be successful.
"We’ll make sure that we all become one team, with a common goal: to stage the greatest possible FIFA World Cup in 2018. We believe that of all the advantages we bring to the partnership, the greatest is experience," he said.
"Football experience, hosting experience and commercial experience."
Mayne-Nicholls concluded his statement by assuring the English bid that British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose wife Samantha gave birth earlier this week, made the correct decision in declining the opportunity to meet with the inspectors.
"FIFA is a family too and we fully understand why he could not be with us," he said.
"The PM took the right decision. Family is the most important thing in life. Of course, more important than football."
Written by James Corbett.