The Russian Football Union (RFU) is potentially facing strong international criticism after it was revealed that one of the stadiums planned to host the 2018 World Cup has run massively over budget, as the nation prepares its infrastructure for the welcoming of the world.
The New Zenit Stadium in St Petersburg is a state-of-the-art arena that was a central pillar to Russia’s bid to host the World Cup, and is currently under construction. However, its proposed 2013 opening date is under threat, after it was revealed the stadium’s budget has spiralled to over 500 per cent the original estimate.
Zenit St Petersburg, the club side who will soon call the stadium home, will play in an arena costing a reported $1.4bn – much more expensive than the initial estimate $210 million estimate.
To make matters worse, the 65,000 capacity stadium will be the most expensive per seat in the world and could seriously discourage FIFA from investing money into Russian infrastructure ahead of their World Cup.
Indeed, there is serious concern from pundits giving football betting tips that the Russian tournament’s cost could spiral out of control, with South Africa’s 2010 World Cup a clear example of mismanagement of funds.
Although the South African tournament was a fantastic fans’ experience, the £3bn cost was way above budget and FIFA faced huge criticism for the crisis.
The 2018 World Cup is already a major public relations disaster for FIFA after the vast majority of the media looked sceptically on its bidding process that also saw Qatar win the rights to host in 2022; further criticism will arise as more of these financial mismanagement stories spill out from within the RFU.
If Russia is to maintain any credibility with this tournament, the RFU must keep track of its budget and not overspend as they have in St Petersburg. If so, the fan experience will be diminished as ticket prices rise to cover the cost.