Rothenberg: England World Cup bid is outstanding

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The chairman of FIFA's Technical Inspection team has given England's 2006 bid a massive boost, labelling the FA's campaign as 'outstanding' and 'first class'.

The chairman of FIFA's Technical Inspection team has given England's 2006 bid a massive boost, labelling the FA's campaign as 'outstanding' and 'first class'.

Alan Rothenberg headed a six-strong delegation, who toured the length and breadth of England, assessing Lancaster Gate's credentials to stage sport's biggest event.

They met with Tony Blair at Downing Street and last night were guests of honour at a gala banquet at Hampton Court Palace.

FIFA's inspectors had already spent five days in Germany before travelling to England and will visit bid rivals South Africa, Morocco and Brazil before handing their report to FIFA President Sepp Blatter in early summer next year.

"The English written submission was outstanding and we were very pleased with it," said Rothenberg.

"But we wanted to find out the passion ordinary people had for the bid and that we felt was extraordinary and quite incredible.

"We met government officials, the Prince of Wales and city mayors and everyone is behind the bid.

"The stadiums were outstanding and the new Wembley will be a magnificent facility. We were as much impressed with the older stadiums that had been renovated without destroying their great traditions.

"We focused greatly on security. We spent time with the Home Secretary and it was clear England had developed the most sophisticated system of security we've seen.

"We are not decision makers but I can assume we have some influence. England has all the elements of a successful bid."

Rothenberg refused to compare the two European bids but laid to rest rumours the English and German Football Associations may co-host the 2006 Finals.

"The FIFA regulations are quite clear. There is only one host country," he said.

The delegation have received first-class VIP treatment since arriving in England last week.

They were loaned the Queen's flight squadron for the duration of their visit, attended two gala dinners and spent time meeting with the Prince of Wales and senior government officials.

They left their central London base for Heathrow today in a fleet of England 2006 London taxis, escorted by police outriders through the capital's busy streets.

However, Rothenberg defended FIFA against critics who claim lavish hospitality may influence his delegation's recommendations.

"I don't think the entertainment was lavish. We had to fit a lot of engagements into a small space of time and helicopters and planes were the best way to do this," he added.

"We stayed in some nice hotels but a bed is a bed."

England's campaign director, Alec McGivan, was delighted with the delegation's visit and after three years of hard lobbying believes the FA's multi-million pound bid is now the front-runner.

FIFA's all-powerful 24-man executive committee will decide on the venue next July, after reading the secret report and evaluation of Rothenberg's inspection team.

"We have always been confident of our case and the more the campaign unfolds the more confident we become," said McGivan.

"We are well ahead of our rivals in terms of facilities. When we announced our bid after the successful Euro '96 tournament most of the stadiums had been largely completed."

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