Now for football. Stage set for Russia’s Confederations Cup kick off amid human rights and ticketing concerns

By Samindra Kunti in St Petersburg, Russia

June 16 – With the Confederations Cup set to kick off tomorrow with hosts Russia facing New Zealand in the newly completed Kreztovsky stadium in St Petersburg, CEO of the Local Organising Committee Alexei Sorokin said they could not find corroboration of the “alarming” allegations made in the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report into construction workers’ conditions at World Cup stadium sites.  Meanwhile, stadia are slowing filling though there are still 7,000 tickets for the opening game.

At the opening press conference for the tournament, Sorokin said: “The Local Organizing Committee and FIFA are involved in monitoring conditions for workers. We cannot confirm the position expressed by HRW. There have been in excess of 70 inspections at stadium construction sites. Working conditions have been closely monitored. We did not see infringements or major signals. We have checked more than 100 contractors and subcontractors, the signals that were alarming were not confirmed.”

“There was evidence of the presence of North Korean in our inspection in November, but when we came back in March there was no evidence of the presence of North Korean workers,” said FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura regarding accusations of abuse of North Korean workers at the construction site of the Krestovsky Stadium, the venue for the Confederations Cup’s opening game. “Today we can say that all the recommendations that we made during the November and March inspections were fully implemented. We have been working hand in hand with the LOC to see the rights of workers respected.”

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch published a wider report detailing further claims of workers’ rights abuses at five other new World Cup 2018 stadiums. The report alleges that workers have been left unpaid, made to work in cold conditions and have suffered intimidation. It said many workers were ‘afraid to speak out’ over the “exploitation and abuse’ they faced.

Ticketing still slow but ‘encouraging’

Samoura also offered “encouraging” news about the ticketing for the Confederations Cup. Brazil 2013 was a bumper edition with full stadiums, but there will unlikely be a repeat in Russia.

So far, a sales rate of 65% of available tickets has been achieved with the group game between Russia and European champions Portugal the only sell-out.

For the opening match 44,000 tickets have been sold with further 7,000 tickets available. The official capacity of the Krestovsky Stadium has been reduced to 57,200 for the game between Russia and New Zealand due to the venue’s configuration. Samoura said that Russia traditionally has a lot of on-the-day ticket sales and walk ups, and expected that the stadium would be full.

And so the build-up to Russia’s Confederations Cup has gone through the trademark preparatory pattern with costs cuts, disputes over broadcasting fees, fears over violence, ticketing concerns and complaints about workers’ rights, but FIFA and the LOC relayed a message of confidence before this weekend’s kick-off.

Asked about the future of the Confederations Cup after speculation that FIFA could kill off the World Cup warm-up competition after Russia 2017, Samoura reported that there was no decision on this.

Asked whether there were areas of preparation that needed to be worked on before the 2018 World Cup, Samoura said: “On the key issues for the World Cup, there is no big recommendation that we are going to put forward [to Russia],” said Samoura.

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