After ten days and 12 matches played, the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 came to its first rest day, when representatives from FIFA and the Local Organising Committee provided the media with a wrap-up of the group stage. 

FIFA Chief Competitions & Events Officer Colin Smith and Local Organising Committee CEO Alexey Sorokin discussed the operational aspects of the competition and were followed by FIFA Head of Refereeing Massimo Busacca, who offered insight on one of the milestone features of the 2017 edition: the use of VAR (video assistant referees).

A few highlight figures from the group stage were presented:

  • 34 goals scored (2.8 goals on average)
  • 449,599 spectators attended group stage matches with 37,466 average attendance (similar to FCC 2009: 36,555)
  • 39 yellow cards, 2 red cards (second yellow)
  • 10 VAR cases
  • 5,844 volunteers from 78 countries helped in all FCC Host Cities
  • 3,087 accredited media representatives including TV worked in all four Host Cities
  • 68,548 printed accreditations
  • 262 free inter Host Cities trains used for general public and media
  • More than 56,000 tickets issued for free trains
  • 392,222 Fan ID Cards issued

And here is what was said:

Colin Smith, FIFA Chief Competitions & Events Officer
We have now seen clear evidence of how the operations for the first 12 matches have been carried out at a very high level – both at the stadiums and across the four Host Cities. From an operational standpoint, the group stage of the FIFA Confederations Cup has been a success.

Having said all this, though, we of course see room for improvement. There are operational aspects that we continue to fine-tune and adjust in order to improve the delivery of the four remaining games of the knockout stage. Also, it is very important that these improvements will also serve as valuable lessons looking ahead to next year’s FIFA World Cup - not only in the four stadiums that we are using here but across all 12 venues that will be used next year.”

Alexey Sorokin, Local Organising Committee CEO
I am superstitious, so I will be careful, but the truth is that things have gone very well so far. Feedback from fans, players and participants has been very positive, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves: we know that the four most important matches of the knockout stage are ahead of us.

It is hardly a secret that this is a joint effort involving FIFA and the LOC, but also the local and federal authorities. This effort led to very complex initiatives being fully operational, such as the free trains for ticket holders to travel between host cities or the visa-free entry to country by means of the Fan ID. 

Looking ahead to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, we certainly need to brief the public to come and pick-up their Fan IDs – and to arrive at the stadium – well in advance. It is the kind of conclusion that we will draw here. We will draw conclusions and learn our lessons, but in general, everything has worked. This is the best intermediate conclusion I can give. The things that worried us and that had not been time-tested worked out very well.”

Massimo Busacca, FIFA Head of Refereeing
The tests have been very good so far. The most important thing for us, by far, is that no clear mistakes were made. We had six game-changing decisions taken as a result of VAR  (video assistant referee) review. This is what the protocol says: to look for clear errors. To focus on key decisions.

With that said, of course we do admit that there are many aspects that should be improved. We need to keep the waiting time as short as possible. Top referees are intelligent: they know that communications must be quick and direct; they know that time is an imperative. However, choosing the right camera angle as quickly as possible, under pressure, is something that is still not second nature. After the conclusion of the tournament, we will work for the future – we have to. However, these are already important results that we have in our hands.

We will not be perfect, but we will reduce mistakes. Besides, VAR will be a tool for prevention. Players will know that they are under scrutiny. With that said, the objective of the referee remains the same: to be at the right place at the right time, to understand the game and to make the right decisions when applying disciplinary sanctions.”