Yellow card for Nigeria

After concluding an inspection visit of the facilities for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009, FIFA has noted a significant delay in the preparations for the tournament, scheduled to take place between 24 October and 15 November 2009. According to FIFA Vice-President and Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Jack A. Warner, who led the FIFA delegation, out of nine candidates, only two stadiums are close to being ready.

"Frankly, from an objective point of view, Nigeria is not ready to host the tournament," Chairman Warner said at a press conference today in Lagos. "But I am a man who has always believed in Nigeria and there have been some signs of hope and commitment. Based on those signs of hope I will propose to the FIFA Executive Committee when they meet on 30-31 May in Nassau that we give Nigeria a one month ‘grace period' for six venues to build on the signs of hope and commitment we have seen on this trip and fulfil all the necessary requirements."

According to Vice-President Warner's proposal, the stadiums in Calabar, Enugu, Ijebu-Ode and Kano will be given the opportunity to achieve readiness by the end of the "grace period" and host the competition together with Abuja's National Stadium and Lagos' Teslim Balogun Stadium.

"When the ‘grace period' expires, FIFA will return to visit the venues and if each and every one of them does not reach the 100% readiness level that we expect, then FIFA will withdraw the tournament hosting rights from Nigeria and go to another country," Warner announced at the press conference and referred to the upcoming FIFA Executive Committee meeting where the issue will be further discussed.

With regards to the stadiums in Bauchi and Kaduna, Warner expressed FIFA's gratitude: "We thank them for their efforts and have no doubt that once they do finally complete their venues, it will provide a wonderful legacy for the sporting infrastructure of their communities. However, everyone has always known that not all nine would be selected."

The venue of Warri could not be inspected over the past days due to security concerns in the vicinity of the city and the Delta State region in general. With the cooperation of international and Nigerian security agencies, FIFA will continue to closely monitor the situation in the nearby environs of Warri and decide if it can still be considered a candidate venue. Should the Executive Committee approve the "grace period" proposal and the situation makes it possible for FIFA to once again visit Warri when it returns in July, it will do so to evaluate the facilities and possibly utilise Warri as a seventh venue - assuming that all the other six have made the grade following the "grace period".