World Cup in Russia will be safe and successful, vows sports minister

The World Cup in Russia will not be affected by hooliganism or organisational problems, according to Tatarstan's minister for sport, Vladimir Leonov.

Concerns have been raised over the viability of staging the global showpiece in Russia in the wake of fan violence witnessed at Euro 2016.

Unsavoury clashes between Russia and England fans in Marseille caught the headlines and led to a significant number of arrests by French police.

There have been fears of similar incidents at the Confederations Cup or the 2018 finals but the so-called 'Tournament of Champions' has so far passed without major security concerns.

And Leonov, who is directly responsible for sporting affairs in host city Kazan and the Tatarstan region, believes Russia's effective policing and the implementation of FIFA fan ID cards means there is little to be concerned about.

See more

Speaking to Omnisport at Kazan Arena, he said: "Logistically we have got a very convenient city for tourists, for the fans, so we are open to anyone who wants to visit for the Confederations Cup or a World Cup.

"As for cancelling or boycotting, it's hard to comment on this. We are focused on organisation and we have done a lot to host the World Cup, so I don't think anything will change as we are ready.

"No bans were imposed ahead of this competition. As you know, as part of the tournament, the new system has been applied, the fan IDs, so even at the stage of issuing that document we can filter out people with any negative background.

"As far as I know, there were only isolated incidents out of an army of thousands football fans. We can identify anyone in case of a critical situation, we can locate his seat, et cetera. So everything is done to provide full safety."

When asked whether British fans should have any anxiety about travelling for the World Cup, he added: "Let's wait for the arrival of British fans in the next year and then we'll talk about it. I don't know what will happen in a year. I don't have psychic abilities of that kind."

The Confederations Cup has faced criticism for attendances to date, with matches watched by far-from-capacity crowds, particularly in the coastal city of Sochi.

See more

Leonov, however, is convinced there will be no such problem in 2018 and says FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been delighted with the organisation of the tournament, although he admits that ticket prices have left a number of local fans disappointed.

"I am convinced that we have done our job very well, especially considering the statistics of previous Confederations Cups," he said. "We may hope FIFA will be a bit more loyal in terms of pricing, because for Russian people, tickets are a bit too expensive. I think we'll be completely ready for the World Cup in this sense. I am sure the ticket sales will be close to 100 per cent.

"I cannot say everything was perfect but many people, including Infantino, mentioned that we as a country exceeded expectations.

"After this competition, we will hold a meeting, we'll run through all incidents, all questions. Everything has gone in an intelligent way, with a smile, so I don't expect any radical changes in preparation.

"The Confederations Cup is a test tournament ahead of the World Cup so we could see what works and what does not. If it works fine, why do you need changes?"

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1