2018 World Cup CEO says fan violence concern

Fan violence in Russian football remains ”a concern” but

measures will be introduced including a better ticketing system and

security cameras in stadiums to ensure fans are safe during the

2018 World Cup, the head of the tournament said on Tuesday.

Alexey Sorokin, speaking on the sidelines of a sports conference

in Dubai, said he was ”disappointed” Russia continues to be

associated with football violence and admitted more needed to be

done to stamp out the problem.

The issue was highlighted last month when a match between Dynamo

Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg was called off after the Dynamo

goalkeeper was injured by a firecracker thrown from the Zenit

stands.

”We don’t doubt that we can bring the security up to the level

where it’s absolutely safe both on the streets and inside the

stadium,” he said. ”We are not concerned that the security system

will be compromised in any way. (Fan violence is) something that is

disappointing, that somehow these things are associated with

football and associated with Russian football. We will take very

serious measures to avoid these things in the future.”

Sorokin also struck out at critics who have suggested that

Russia and 2022 World Cup host Qatar won their bids unfairly. There

have never been direct allegations of wrongdoing by Russia but the

whole World Cup voting process was called into question after two

members of FIFA’s executive committee were suspended following a

British newspaper investigation into vote-trading before the 2018

and 2022 decisions.

”We are clean and we didn’t witness any hints from anyone,

certainly not exco members or those around them, of improper

activities,” Sorokin said.

”There has been a lot of talk mostly about Qatar, regrettably,

but us as well,” he said. ”If anyone had any information, any

proof would be out already. It seems nobody has anything tangible.

Therefore there are only suggestions, insinuations. It has to stop

somewhere. If there is anything, let them show. If there is

nothing, let’s stop the talk about it.”

Sorokin said it would have been ”suicide” to denigrate another

bid let alone try to buy off FIFA voters.

”It’s stupid to even imagine that a bid leader or bid could

openly offer money to somebody. It could be suggested by a person

who has no clue about the bidding,” he said. ”You are afraid

about making the wrong move every day in terms of FIFA ethics,

general ethics. You are afraid to compare yourself to another

competitor, say something wrong in the media. To make such a step

that would end your bid would be suicide.”

Asked why some voters may have switched their allegiance from

England to Russia, Sorokin said it came down to a desire to reach

new markets.

”The bid was based on very fundamental principles. These

principles were very convincing for the football community,” he

said. ”First of all, it’s a new frontier for world football. It’s

a new country, new market. This is a country with a lot of wealth

and has every chance of becoming a sort of safe haven for FIFA for

many years with perfect modern venues we are about to build with a

lot of football professionals.”

As for the Russia team, Sorokin expects it will qualify outright

for the tournament even though it has not reached the final since

2002.

”Every Russian fan expects the Russian team to perform. We were

unlucky for South Africa (in 2010), we didn’t make it,” he said.

”We have rethought a lot of things, in terms of preparations for

our team, in terms of approaches of improving the performance of

our team. In Brazil, we hope to be among the leaders in that race

and I would be very surprised if not.”