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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World Cup Bidders Need Stadium Upgrades

NEW YORK — The European countries bidding for the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 need to upgrade their stadiums if they are going to host the tournament, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said Thursday.

England, Russia and joint bids from Spain and Portugal and the Netherlands and Belgium are hoping to get one of the World Cups.

"None of them has what we could call a World Cup stadium, except at maybe Wembley," Valcke said in an interview. "Most of the stadiums will have to improve."

Even grounds such as the Camp Nou in Barcelona would have to be modified.

"It's a beautiful stadium, but how do you put a number of TV trucks around? How do you put a hospitality village for 10,000 people," Valcke said. "You will definitely need to find space around the stadium, and that's the main problem we have."

In other news, Valcke said it likely will take a long time for FIFA to complete 15 investigations into whether clubs broke rules in transfer agreements. FIFA this month banned Chelsea from signing players until January 2011 in ruling the team broke rules when it brought 18-year-old French player Gael Kakuta from Lens in 2007.

"The day after we received a number of letters and calls," he said. "For the time being, we are following some requests from different clubs, etc., we have 15 investigations in England. We know already that these investigations, they are not at the same level as the Chelsea one. Everyone is coming with lawyers, and then it takes years, at least months, to finalize cases."

Valcke said FIFA is establishing a special working unit with UEFA, where he said 80 percent of the cases originate. He also said a FIFA subcommittee will examine and approve each future international transfer of players under 18, of which there are about 500,000 annually. Players under that age are allowed to transfer only if they are from Europe, where the threshold is 16; if they are moving with at least one family member for primarily a non-football reason; or if they are moving to another country less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) away.

"There is a misuse of the exceptions," he said.

Looking ahead to next year's World Cup in South Africa, Valcke said the primary issues to address are completion of the stadiums, transportation and training workers such as drivers and stewards. He has been spending one week a month in South Africa, and FIFA's staff will start arriving for the tournament in early May.

"You have to change the culture," he said. "There is a tradition in South Africa that you are just coming into the stadium with your ticket and you sit on the first available seat. We have to make sure that stewards are trained to deal with such a situation."

He is looking forward to the time after the World Cup final on July 11 and plans to be with Danny Jordaan, head of the South African organizers.

"I say, 'Danny, we have to make sure that we drink a bottle of champagne, the two of us,"' Valcke said. "'Even if you have never had a drop of alcohol, you will be drunk, but we have to do it."'