The number of host stadiums for the 2018 Fifa World Cup will not be reduced despite Russia’s ongoing financial troubles, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has announced.
Mutko said Russia 2018 had “passed the point of no return” with regards to its plans for 12 stadia in 11 cities, with the last chance to alter those arrangement falling in June last year.
Last week, Mutko revealed that the budget for the World Cup would be cut by 10 per cent amid broader cuts in state expenditure, with the central bank projecting Russia’s economy would contract by between 4.5 and 4.7 per cent this year.
But the minister said that cuts would apply to organisational elements and he has now reiterated that the number of stadia will remain unchanged – with cuts in capacity the only concession to saving construction costs.
“The concept of the tournament’s organisation has been approved and is not subject to changes,” Mutko said, according to Russian news agency Tass. “The last chance to introduce changes was in June last year, when Fifa president Sepp Blatter and members of the Fifa Executive Committee were not against the idea of reducing the number of hosting cities.
“However, Blatter voiced his support for the initiative to reduce the seating capacity of the stadiums in Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg from 45,000 to 35,000. It helped to considerably cut expenses and to solve the issue.”
Although the majority of 2018 World Cup construction is running to schedule, the regional construction ministry in Rostov announced this week that its 45,000-capacity facility is running seven months behind and is now due to be delivered in December 2017.
A statement from the ministry published by the Associated Press news agency did not detail the specifics of the delay but said: “Taking into account the tight deadline for the construction of the stadium, a double-shift work schedule has been organized.”
Mutko previously identified the stadium on Rostov’s riverside as potentially the most difficult construction project owing to construction workers having to negotiate temperatures that plummet to minus 15 degrees celsius.
Elsewhere, the 69,000-capacity stadium in St Petersburg is targeting 2016 completion in time for the 2017 Confederations Cup having initially being slated to open in 2008 as Russian Premier League club Zenit St Petersburg’s home ground. A dispute between federal and local government over the most suitable stadium site has been resolved for work to continue in Kaliningrad but without agreement on the facility’s final design.
In March 2014, the Sports Ministry said that hosting the World Cup would cost R620.5bn (€8bn/$9bn), with R172.6bn of the total allocated for upgrading sports facilities.