FIFA World Cup 2018: Exclusive interview with Alexey Sorokin, CEO of the Russian bid

Russia 2018

Little over a month ago I secured an exclusive interview with the man leading Russia’s tilt for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Alexey Sorokin.

At the time I thought his case was compelling… and it seems FIFA agree.

While I and the rest of England are still reeling from the decision in Zurich, maybe this will help shed a little light on why we weren’t chosen.

Read the Q&A after the jump…

Alexey Sorokin

Alexey Sorokin

Simon Peach: What feedback has the Russian bid team received during the FIFA inspections?

Alexey Sorokin: “In line with FIFA regulations regarding the bid procedure we cannot make specific statements in this respect or on behalf of FIFA, however, we feel that the feedback has generally been rather positive.”

SP: What does the Russian bid concept offer that will make it stand out to FIFA?

AS: “Russia would be the best partner for FIFA to truly fulfill the world-governing body’s development and legacy agenda. Our bid is about more than new stadia, roads and hotels. Russia offers FIFA a tangible opportunity to fulfill its stated goals of the promotion of the game of football and its values to underdeveloped football markets and audiences around the world. To give an example:$1 billion are being invested into grassroots and football development by 2015 (pitches, schools, centres, etc.). Or sponsorship: for the Winter Games in Sochi domestic sponsorship revenues of $350 million have been projected – so far it has achieved $1.1 billion in domestic sponsorship sales.

“In terms of government support, we can state that the bid enjoys the personal backing of President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin and that our governmental guarantees are iron-clad. Investments for the infrastructure are covered by financial funds coming from government and private investors.

“Russia offers a choice of host cities that represent the country as a whole but still are within reachable distances, further bundled by the cluster concept. Also, as an experienced host of countless high-profile events and competitions, we know how to organize major competitions.

“As per additional guarantees, no visas will be required with a valid ticket or valid ticket certificate issued by FIFA and there will also be free of charge public ground transportation, also between host cities by train and bus).

“Finally, the Red Square in Moscow, the Palace Square in St. Petersburg and all other unique Fan Fest venues that will make up for most inspiring environment to enjoy the World Cup outside of stadiums but inside the FIFA World Cup.

“A World Cup would be a historic first: despite its size and importance as a country as such in the world, Russia has never staged so far a FIFA World Cup or a European Championship.”

SP: Who do you believe is Russia’s strongest competition to host the tournaments?

AS: “As per the FIFA regulations we are not in a position to answer this question, however, we have the highest respect for our fellow bidders and the quality of their respective candidatures”

SP: You were accredited with quotes saying that English fans were “hooligans” which have since been blamed on mistranslation, but the comments came just weeks after Lord Triesman’s infamous allegations. Is there any ill-feeling towards the English Bid Committee after the incident earlier this year?

AS: No.

SP: How is Russia planning to overcome the logistic issues of holding the tournament over such a vast area?

AS: “Our host cities are all within reachable distances. As part of various Federal Target Programmes and irrespective whether or not the FIFA World Cup will be awarded to Russia, the government of the Russian Federation for several years already has been embarking upon a major infrastructural programme which foresees airport extensions, the construction of a Highspeed railway network – already in existence between St. Petersburg and Moscow as well as between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod – new motorways, etc.”

SP: What improvements will need to be made to the nation’s infrastructure if it’s successful?

AS: “Russia has already been expanding and modernizing its infrastructure as part of various Federal Target Programmes. Thus, a large number of projects are already underway. Others will be implemented in line with the Bid Book.”

SP: How important has Governmental support been?

AS: “We consider the support of our government and the quality of our truly extensive governmental guarantees a major asset of our bid.”

SP: What legacy would the hosting the tournament leave?

AS: “We believe that hosting a FIFA World Cup in Russia will leave a “human legacy” of new skills and experiences for players, coaches, referees, media and administrators of sport.

“In terms of sporting legacy, the football infrastructure in both amateur and professional football is being modernized in Russia rapidly, focusing as well on women’s football. One example is that as of 2005 the Football Union of Russia, together with the regional authorities, has been implementing a national investment project “Stadia for Kids”, which allowed to improve the logistics and infrastructure for grassroots and youth amateur football within a very short period of time. Hundreds of football pitches with artificial turf were built in sports academies.

“Russia is reinventing itself and is becoming a “New Russia”. It is drawing on the lessons of its varied past to mould a new destiny. As past World Cups have shown, the entire host country is standing to benefit from organizing this event. It gives impetus to modernize the overall infrastructure for our present and future generations. It leaves a lasting legacy that will go beyond sports. It provides economic and business impetus and it is also a major promotional tool in terms of location marketing as the country as a whole can present itself on a global stage.

“We will have brand new stadia fulfilling all FIFA requirements as a legacy for the future of the Russian league, since the demand is existing. Additionally, the accommodation and telecommunication industry will profit from an upgrade of infrastructure as well from the investments. The same is valid for the whole transportation infrastructure and industry.

“As part of the Bid, we will also focus very strongly on all matters governing green goals, sustainability and legacy.”

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