LONDON (Reuters) - England’s failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup “was by far the strongest contender”, FIFA official Harold Mayne-Nicholls was quoted as saying on Sunday.
“How could England have only got two votes? It was a big surprise,” Mayne-Nicholls was quoted as saying in The Sunday Times.
The 53-year-old, a former Chilean football federation president, was chairman of a FIFA group tasked with assessing the strength and feasibility of the various bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals.
Having visited all 11 countries bidding, Mayne-Nicholls concluded that England had the best infrastructure and public involvement, crucial facets of any successful bid.
The bid, however, received just two votes from a possible 22 with Russia winning the right to host the 2018 tournament. Qatar secured the 2022 Cup.
“England were on the top. They had the best concept, the best infrastructure and the people were very much involved,” said Mayne-Nicholls.
“I was there and I saw the faces of Prince William and (David) Beckham, and they were shocked. It’s like when you are a first division team and you play a third division team and you lose by five goals.”
Mayne-Nicholls has previously raised concerns about Qatar, whose bid was the only one labeled as high risk by the evaluation committee due to the searing heat.
He again questioned the logistical issues raised by hosting the tournament in one city and said the transport and infrastructure would not be able to cope with the deluge of fans flocking to the tournament.
“It is a real possibility that lots of people cannot get to the games,” Mayne-Nicholls.
On Friday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced the world body would publish, “in an appropriate form”, a 430-page report compiled by former ethics investigator Michael Garcia which explored claims of bribery in the bidding process.
Mayne-Nicholls said last month he would decide in the New Year whether to stand for FIFA presidency against Blatter. FIFA rules prevent campaigning before Jan. 29 with the election set for May 29.
Reporting By Tom Hayward, editing by Alan Baldwin