Fifa denies SA may lose 2010 World Cup

Fifa has "absolutely, categorically" denied that it has a contingency plan to move the 2010 Soccer World Cup to Australia if South Africa is unable to host the event.

An Afrikaans Sunday newspaper reported that South Africa's chances of hosting the World Cup were getting slimmer by the day and that there were "whispers in the corridors of soccer power" that the event could be moved from the country.

"That's absolutely untrue, 100 percent. There's no contingency plan at all. Someone's made that up," the head of Fifa's South African office, Michael Palmer, told The Star on Sunday.

"The president of Fifa, Sepp Blatter, has spent years ensuring the event goes to Africa, Fifa has an office and employees in South Africa and there have been over 60 South Africans on Fifa observer programmes at Germany 2006. Only to then take the event somewhere else?

"We absolutely, categorically deny it, we won't even discuss it. It just genuinely is not true," said Palmer.

Citing a "third world" public transport system, a renewed wave of crime, HIV and a shortage of accommodation, the weekend report said Fifa officials were working on an "emergency" plan to take the event to Australia.

South Africa 2010 World Cup chief executive officer Danny Jordaan declined to comment on the report, but Palmer, an Australian, said Fifa is "more committed than ever to making a success of the World Cup in South Africa".

"There's no contingency plan at all. It's going to be in South Africa and that's the end of it," he said.

The report also said there would be a shortage of accommodation for 120 000 people in 2010.

Adam Brown, a representative of Match Services, a company mandated by Fifa to do the operational running of the accommodation, ticketing and information technology solutions until the 2014 World Cup, said the figure of 120 000 beds short was not taking into account the nature of a World Cup event.

"It's a mega event. We're not saying its simple and that there aren't any complications, but saying you're 120 000 beds short is nonsense.

"It's not taking into account the nature of the event," said Brown, who has been based in South Africa for a year.

"You need to take into account the movement of people within the country and at different stages of the World Cup. That's a managerial excuse and the process is to take a historical point of view.

"You can look at what happened in Germany. There are dips between matches, with people coming in from the United Kingdom, Holland or France, staying for a day or two and returning home.

"That won't happen in South Africa - people won't travel from Europe and South America for one day."

Brown said that in terms of the South African situation, the US World Cup 1994 gave a much better insight, in terms of distance between cities and length of time people stayed in different places.

"The people involved with Fifa in 1994 are still with Fifa and have a very strong understanding of the various trends within accommodation for a World Cup country.

"We know the needs, the requirements and expectations.

"We know what the situation has been in Germany and will analyse that and say what is needed to raise the bar in South Africa.

"That's what the president of Fifa, Sepp Blatter, said in Germany - that every World Cup must raise the bar," said Brown.


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