Fifa says that preparations for the 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup in South Africa are on track, says that it is confident that the global credit crunch will not hit the next two World Cups – but has taken out $650 million insurance against the 2010 and 2014 cups being postponed or relocated.

This emerged at the end of a two-day meeting on October 23 and 24 2008 of Fifa’s executive.

“There has always been an insurance policy for World Cups and has to do with a natural or non-natural catastrophe or any event that could lead to the postponement of the event to another country from South Africa…but we are on time to deliver the Confederations Cup [next year] and 2010 World Cup in South Africa,” Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said at a news conference in Zurich.

Taking out insurance was standard practice and did not indicate a lack of confidence in the local organising committees, he said.

In a statement, Fifa said that it had received a detailed analysis of the potential impact of the global financial crisis.

According to this analysis, Fifa had not suffered any losses and was well-equipped to weather the current crisis thanks to a number of factors, including “diversification of its financial assets; low exposure to currency fluctuations; the fact that 95 per cent of the 2007-2010 income budget is under contract; good cost management; and the diversity of its portfolio of commercial and TV partners”.

It said that it had taken out insurance as had been the case for all World Cups since 1998.

The $650 million cover was for postponement of relocation of the 2010 and 2014 cups. The policy provided cover against terrorism, natural disasters, epidemics, war, accidents or turmoil, Fifa said.

With regard to the 2010 World Cup, Fifa’s executive committee decided that, in order to protect the welfare of the players, they should play their last club matches on May 16 2010 at the latest. A mandatory rest period will be in place from May 17 to 23 2010.

The final of the Uefa Champions League – scheduled to be played on May 22 2010 – will be the only exception to this rule.

Fifa said that the executive also had discussed the possibility of announcing the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups simultaneously. “The proposal was accepted in principle, but a final decision on this matter will not be taken until the executive committee’s next meeting in Tokyo, on December 19 and 20 2008.”

South African website, in an article on preparations for the 2010 World Cup, said that the global credit crisis coupled with slowing domestic growth and higher prices for building materials was causing projected costs to seem conservative, “a situation that could place a massive burden on the taxpayer for decades to come”.

“As the cost of borrowing money from the world’s financial institutions heads for stratospheric heights, economists claim SA could struggle to raise the necessary funds for massive infrastructure projects promised ahead of the World Cup,” the website said.

After South Africa’s cabinet received a report on October 23 on World Cup preparations, cabinet spokesperson Themba Maseko said that the construction programme for the stadiums was on track to meet all Fifa deadlines although cost escalation “remains a challenge”.

On October 21, South African finance minister Trevor Manuel, in a medium-term budget policy statement to parliament, said that an additional 8.8 billion rands (about 619 million euro) was to be given to municipalities to help with the costs of preparing for 2010. Manuel made adjustments to the country’s medium-term budget plans against the background of the global financial crisis.

An additional 5.4 billion rands will go to alleviate the effects of inflation on operational and capital spending programmes and there will be an extra 3.4 billion for the municipal costs of the building programme. Of this amount, 835 million rands (about 59 million euro) will go to public transport and 497 million rands (about 35 million euro) to add to the existing budget for stadiums.

To host the event, South Africa is upgrading five existing sports stadiums and building a further five. The Fifa World Cup 2010 will be played at 10 venues in nine cities.

Maseko said that the cabinet had been told that South African telecommunications giant Telkom’s upgrade of its core fibre optic network was progressing according to plan and was due for completion in the last quarter of 2008.

The Public Transport Infrastructure Support programme was being implemented with most infrastructure either under construction or scheduled to start this year.

Power utility giant Eskom has guaranteed that construction of stadiums and the football tournaments would not be adversely affected by any power outages, and safety, security and disaster management plans had been completed, Maseko said.

AUTHOR: Clive Leviev-Sawyer
DATED: 25th October 2008