With 245 days to go until the first official 2018 FIFA World Cup™ event, outlining the details of the Preliminary Draw was among the main items on the agenda of the fourth meeting of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) Board held on Friday 21 November in Sochi.

Members of the board, led by LOC Chairman Vitaly Mutko and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, presented a summary of work completed in preparation for the event, including the concept that had been approved and the locations determined for the key events of the Preliminary Draw. The draw itself, as was previously announced, will take place on 25 July 2015 in St. Petersburg's Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna – one of the most beautiful suburbs of the Northern Capital of Russia.

With the Preliminary Draw determining how the national sides will proceed towards the final tournament in 11 Russian host cities in 2018, the dates for the tournament itself are becoming all the more real. Members of the LOC Board agreed on a proposed start and end date for both the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup – with a final decision set to be presented following the upcoming FIFA Executive Committee meeting in Morocco on 18 December 2014. Furthermore, it was decided that the official match schedule for the FIFA World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup will be announced following the meeting of the Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup in the week of the Preliminary Draw.

We have built up good momentum and are delving increasingly into the finer detail.

LOC Chairman Vitaly Mutko

The Board also received a comprehensive summary on the state of well-progressing preparations at all 12 tournament arenas, while Valcke reiterated that the hosting plans for the World Cup remain unchanged with 11 host cities and 12 stadia, and that no further reduction in arena capacity is planned.

As part of their visit to Sochi, the FIFA and LOC delegation also visited the Olympic Park and saw reconstruction plans for the Olympic stadium, which will host matches both in the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and the World Cup in 2018. The occasion was also used to discuss location options for the FIFA Fan Fest in Sochi. The next LOC Board Meeting with FIFA representatives is scheduled to be held in February next year in St. Petersburg. 

Following the board meeting, Mutko and Valcke provided a brief update to the media, with the former saying: “We are glad that the opportunity arose to visit Sochi as part of our regular meetings with FIFA representatives, and to have seen the stadium and the Olympic Park. As far as the board is concerned, practically all questions and considerations have been reviewed today. So far, work by both the LOC and the FIFA has been conducted in a fully synchronised manner, and operation plans for the preparations have been created. We have built up good momentum and are delving increasingly into the finer detail.”

Mutko also referred directly to the eagerly anticipated Preliminary Draw, and insisted that the current rate of progress must be maintained. “A crucial event lies ahead of us: the 2018 World Cup Preliminary Draw in St. Petersburg," he said. "We are satisfied both with the pace of preparations ahead of the event and with how we are collaborating, but work must be strictly enforced at each step and we must continue to work at the same pace.”