FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini were in St Petersburg on 19 and 20 January 2012 as part of the Russian Football Union’s (RFU) centenary celebrations and to attend the opening ceremony of the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Cup. During their visit, the heads of world and European football’s governing bodies met with the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Minister of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy Vitaly Mutko and the leaders of fan groups representing clubs from the Professional Football League of Russia and the Football National League.
The meeting was the most high-profile in the history of Russia’s fan movement. In an informal setting, representatives of fan groups from the country’s leading clubs met with the heads of FIFA and UEFA as well as their own Prime Minister and Sports Minister. Among the items discussed were a series of issues relating to the organisation of the sport’s premier event, the FIFA World Cup™, which will be hosted by Russia in 2018.
Addressing the representatives of the fans’ groups, Vladimir Putin began by congratulating the entire Russian football family on the RFU’s centenary, before stressing how important the role of the supporters would be in preparing for Russia 2018. "I’m banking on all Russian fans being involved in the preparation for the World Cup and on the part they will play in making this event a festival for all football fans. The Volunteers we will need for the 2018 World Cup should also come from your ranks. I’m sure we’ll demonstrate exemplary hospitality," added the Prime Minister.
I’m banking on all Russian fans being involved in the preparation for the World Cup and on the part they will play in making this event a festival for all football fans.
For his part, the FIFA President emphasised the unifying role of the World Cup and expressed his hopes that the forthcoming tournament would create a great legacy for Russia. "The FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. Some might say football is just a game, but I say it’s much more than that. It creates opportunities for development. In this respect, the World Cup 2018 will not just be 12 stadiums in 11 host cities. Above all, this World Cup is important for the youth of Russia. Holding the tournament here can unite your large, multinational and multicultural country. So it is essential to generate enthusiasm. You can build more than mere stadiums: you can show the whole world what you’re capable of when you come together!"
The Chairman of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee and Russia’s Minister of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy, Vitaly Mutko, explained how cooperation with fans in helping to organise the tournament would work in practice: "We’re counting on representatives of the fan groups joining regional organising committees in all Host Cities. We intend to have a similar arrangement with the All-Russian Fans’ Union, because we’re relying on supporters' help in coordinating preparations for the tournament."
During the course of the meeting, the fans’ representatives put forward a series of ideas and proposals relating to the organisation of the event that were praised by the FIFA and UEFA executives. Particularly well received was a suggestion to hold pre-tournament international seminars with fan representatives from each of the countries that qualified for Russia 2018.
The final word went to the Head of the All-Russian Fans’ Union, Aleksandr Shprygin, who had this to say: “This is the first time in the history of the international fan community that such a high profile meeting involving the heads of FIFA and UEFA as well as national leaders has taken place. We are grateful to Presidents Blatter and Platini for making this happen in Russia. We are also happy that our ideas found appeal at such a high level. After all, the fans are the main consumers of the ‘football product’. All parties can only benefit from the involvement of fans in organising the World Cup. For our part, we the supporters will do our best to live up to the responsibility entrusted to us.”