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World Cup Needs Re-Think After Setbacks in Brazil, FIFA Says

Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paolo
The Corinthians Arena under construction in Sao Paolo on March 25, 2014. Photographer: Tariq Panja/Bloomberg

Soccer’s governing body will have to change the way it organizes World Cups after setbacks and potential last-minute problems at this year’s tournament in Brazil, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke said.

Preparations for sport’s most-watched event have been blighted by cost overruns, public protests, delays and confusion over who’s responsible for paying for what. With 76 days to go, construction is incomplete at sites including the Sao Paulo Corinthians Arena where the tournament opens June 12.

“It’s a lesson and definitely we will act differently and we will have to find a different way of working in Russia in 2018,” Valcke told a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, where he’s meeting with government officials and local organizers. “We are late and we will have challenges. We will have a lot of work, and we will have potentially some risk coming at the last minute because we have not tried all the facilities.”

The biggest difficulties center on Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre, where local stadium operators have said they won’t now assume the costs of installing temporary facilities after initially signing contracts to do so. Valcke has said it takes about 90 days to install structures such as cabling for television broadcasters, security screening areas and marquees for corporate partners.

Porto Alegre’s local government this week passed a law that will allow the stadium’s owner, soccer team Internacional, to fund the work. It includes 140,000 square meters of paving outside the Beira-Rio stadium. Still, a tender for a contractor to undertake the work has yet to begin.

Agreement Soon

In Sao Paulo, where construction is continuing on installing seats and completing the roof, a deal has yet to be reached over who’ll pay for some work. Valcke said he expects an agreement soon, and added that Odebrecht SA, the company responsible for the $355 million arena, will also build FIFA’s facilities there. Odebrecht spokesman Marco Antonio Antunes said in an interview three days ago that his company wasn’t contracted as yet.

Several contractual obligations signed by host cities have yet to be fulfilled, with some of them refusing to go ahead on parts of the work. National and local governments have come under pressure following protests during last year’s Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up event, where demonstrators railed against the amount of public money being spent on the World Cup. It’s costing the country about $11 billion.

“All the responsibility for duties is already well known. These host cities have been decided by, and with, the Brazilian local organizing committee and even at the highest level of government, so there’s no surprise,” Valcke said.

‘Worst Person’

Valcke created a diplomatic incident in 2012 when he said Brazil needed a “kick” because it was so far behind with its preparations. He was forced to apologize after Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said the country would refuse to work with him. Valcke suggested he would have come under renewed pressure had FIFA acted harshly with Brazil as the tournament nears.

“Imagine what you would have said, you the media, whenever I would have said something which was a bit hard,” Valcke said. “I was the worst person in the world.”

National governments should be responsible for all temporary facilities in future, Valcke said. FIFA last week announced annual revenue of about $1.4 billion for 2013, and a profit of $72 million. It has cash reserves of more than $1 billion.

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