With Rio de Janeiro preparing to host the first major event of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ in the shape of Saturday’s Preliminary Draw, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke took the opportunity to meet with representatives from some of Brazil’s leading media outlets and respond to questions on the organisation of Brazil 2014 and other hot topics from around Planet Football.
During an informal chat over coffee on Thursday morning in Rio, Valcke spent nearly an hour discussing a variety of issues and clarifying any queries the journalists had. FIFA.com brings you a summary of the main topics that came up for discussion:
On the match calendar for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil:
“When deciding on the calendar you need to take into account everyone who has an interest in proceedings: the teams, the fans, television... And because Brazil is such a huge country it makes this job even more demanding. It was easier in South Africa: you could go to a game in Cape Town at 13.00 and be back in Johannesburg for a match at 18.00, while here it would be impossible to get from Porto Alegre to Fortaleza or Recife, for example, in the same time frame. What’s more, in Porto Alegre the temperature could be 3°C when it’s 25°C in Recife, and you don’t want to put the teams in a situation where they have to tackle that kind of problem. That’s why you make a preliminary version of the match calendar taking the country into account; then you consider the issues regarding the teams; then comes television – trying to see to it that the majority of European teams play at a decent time for European broadcast, and you do the same for Asia etc.
“For example, I don't think that having another game as well as the Opening Match on the first day of South Africa 2010 really worked. So, we’ve decided to have just one this time: Brazil against a given opponent. But that means having a day featuring four games – which is by no means easy to pull off. There are a lot of factors to be taken into account, but I think that we’re getting close to a final version, which will be announced in October. The match calendar isn’t something you can do in a week: it’s a job which takes months.
“Due to the vast size of Brazil, the first thing we did was to divide the country into four large zones. We’re now evaluating various possible ways of dividing up the teams, one of which is bringing back the old system where each group is associated with one Host City.”
On Brazil’s infrastructure
“The exaggerated focus on the stadiums is a mistake, because you know there will be enough stadiums. Even if one city was not able to build one [in time], you only need eight cities to host a World Cup. The only question is when they’ll be ready. But that’s not the biggest issue of a World Cup. The main issue is getting people around. That’s why there’s so much concern about airports: you have to make sure that it’s easy for people to travel from one place to another. And I’m not talking about officials or guests, I’m talking about the fans, who are the most important people. They need to be easily able to get to the stadiums and then back again to where they’re staying. That’s why we need airports, roads, an efficient public transport system, all kinds of hotels... Prior to the 2010 World Cup, we heard a lot of people who had doubts as to whether tourists from around the world would be willing to travel to South Africa, but we’ve not had the slightest doubt on that matter here in Brazil. Everybody wants to come to Brazil. Even if we started selling tickets tomorrow I’m sure we’d already sell loads.”
On the stadiums
“FIFA learned a lot in South Africa. And though on the one hand the situation in Brazil isn’t exactly the same, there are similarities and we now know how to cope better with those issues. We know how to make sure everything is completed on time. Let me give one example: after the millions that had been spent on stadium construction by 2010, a few months before the World Cup we realised that none of them had a playing surface that lived up to the standard of the stadiums. This time, ahead of the 2014 event, right from the start of the process we hired a company to take care of the pitches. While Brazil is a much bigger country and poses other challenges, it’s a good thing that this World Cup is coming on the back of the one in South Africa. Equally, it’s good that in 2018 it’ll be Russia – another enormous country – which follows Brazil.
“There is a minimum capacity for the stadiums at each stage of the World Cup, but of course you could find yourself with a situation like the match between England and United States, which was played in a smaller stadium like the one in Rustenburg. It was a shame, but that’s just the way the draw went. On the other hand, there are some games where the interest levels are not as high and there’s no sense in putting them in enormous stadiums. Of course, you could fill a 150,000-capacity stadium for the Final, but what would you do with it afterwards? The idea is to make certain that these stadiums will be used by their cities afterwards, and it’s for that reason that we have no problem with building temporary structures.”
On investment in the FIFA World Cup
“You can’t organise an event like the World Cup without a lot of money. There isn’t a country in the world – with the exception of South Africa now, the United States and perhaps Germany – that wouldn’t need to invest heavily in their infrastructure to be able to host an event like this. You need money for structure, for transport, for a series of things that in one way are not World Cup-related but in another are investments that will change how people live in those cities. It’s expenditure that would have been made, let’s say, in the next ten years anyway, and the fact the country is hosting a World Cup has sped things up.”
On governmental involvement in the Preliminary Draw
“A lot of people are talking about the involvement of public bodies in the hosting of the Preliminary Draw. That wasn’t a requirement of FIFA or the Organising Committee: the fact is that Rio de Janeiro, as a World Cup Host City and host of the 2016 Olympic Games, is in the midst of a media campaign to promote the city and was keen to be associated with the event. Now, if Rio de Janeiro were to ask to host the Final Draw then we’d say no, because we have to take World Cup-related events to other Brazilian cities too.”
On potential rule changes
“There are two steps necessary to approve any changes: firstly, the FIFA Executive Committee must make a decision and, right afterwards, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) must ratify that decision. All decisions will be taken after UEFA EURO 2012. Then there will be an extraordinary meeting of the IFAB to decide on both the use of goal-line technology and on the two additional referees’ assistants – with one not excluding the other. We could use those two new tools in 2014, or even in 2013, because we’d need to test them out. And, to clarify, we’re not talking about the use of video, we’re talking about a system that identifies whether the ball went in the goal or not. If there’s a system that’s not just 100 per cent but 1000 per cent reliable, then why not? As far as the two additional assistants behind the goals, I think it has less to do with helping the referee make decisions than it does with calming things down in the penalty area. You can tell that there’s less aggressive play in the area when the players know there’s an extra pair of eyes watching them. We’ve now got the UEFA Europa League, the Champions League, we’ll have EURO 2012 and then we’ll see. But clearly calling upon an extra two assistants isn’t easy for every confederation. And that’s the argument a lot of people have made: refereeing is universal, and this could mean having different standards of refereeing in every part of the world.”