Weil: Lucky FIFA coping with economic crisis

JOHANNESBURG - The global recession will have only a minimal effect on next year's World Cup although sponsors will have to curtail some of their activities, FIFA's marketing director Thierry Weil said on Sunday. "It would be wrong to say we will not be affected by the crisis because, at the end of the day, our partners will have to reduce their activities a little bit," Weil told a news conference. "But we can say 'Lucky FIFA' because we have some very strong economic partners, some of which have been with us for more than 30 years. "It will not affect us directly, but when it comes to activities and especially to activities like youth programmes, it will. "A lot of our global partners bring a lot of kids into the country from overseas, but most probably they will only bring about half the number and involve more local youngsters -- that is actually a nice thing that local kids will get the right to be part of those programmes, but that's the only effect we have." FIFA, world football's governing body, has a healthy bank balance through the sale of rights for this and future World Cups and made an operating profit of around 200 million Swiss francs in 2008 despite the global slowdown. Apart from running costs, all of that money is directed back into footballing activities. FIFA has six major sponsor partners for both the Confederations Cup and next year's World Cup in South Africa, as well as a number of local sponsors and partners. The Confederations Cup, the test event for the 2010 World Cup, has shown a number of areas which need to be improved, especially transportation links. Another concern is accommodation, with FIFA and the local organising committee estimating that around 500,000 overseas tourists will come to South Africa next summer. Although the country has had five years to prepare for the World Cup so far, reports are emerging that there are not enough hotel rooms to cope with the estimated number of visitors. "We are looking at all forms of accommodation, hotel and non-hotel accommodation," Jermaine Craig, a spokesman for the World Cup organising committee said on Sunday. "We are certainly looking for a comprehensive solution on the accommodation front for next year."