New Delhi: The stadia hosting the 2017 U-17 football World Cup matches in India will have to be ready at least nine months before the start of the showpiece event, visiting FIFA representatives said in New Delhi on Thursday.
"The existing venues will have to be ready 9-12 months before the tournament and for brand new stadia, they will have to be ready even earlier. So, it will have to be according to individual venues. They will have to be tested for operational readiness and for training purposes," FIFA Director of Competitions Colin Smith said at a media briefing here.
Smith, who was in India along with Under-17 World Cup event manager Jaime Yarza, said his coming down to the country was not for an inspection but for a series of meetings with the Local Organising Committee and the All India Football Federation.
"Ours is not an inspection visit. In terms of inspection, we will do it later in the year and early next year," he said. Smith said the date of the tournament and the timings of 52 matches to be played among 24 countries, including hosts India, were yet to be finalised.
"The dates of the tournament will have to be proposed by Local Organising Committee and approved by FIFA. The timing of the matches will have to be decided after consultations with the tournament broadcasters," he said.
The 23-day tournament is likely to be held in the later half of 2017. Smith said venues with natural grass will be favoured but did not rule out the ones with artificial turf.
"My understanding is that the intention of the LOC is to have natural grass turfs. If artificial turf will have to be used, it will have to be of highest quality and to be certified by the FIFA, like the ones on which the matches of the upcoming FIFA Women's World Cup will be played.
"Moreover, if you are having artificial turf, you need to have the same artificial turfs in all the training venues," he added. The AIFF had earlier said that eight venues have been shortlisted from which six will be selected for hosting the tournament, but Tournament Director Javier Ceppi said that Chennai's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will also be considered.
"Most of the venues we are using are existing ones and we will improve and upgrade them. We now have eight host cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi, Guwahati, Margao, Bengaluru and Pune, plus Chennai. These venues will be inspected by the FIFA team. No venue is ruled out yet though six will be selected finally," Ceppi said.
Each of the six venues selected are expected to host matches of a group. The 24 teams will be divided into six groups. The tournament will need to have 24 training pitches - four for each host city but the LOC is yet to sign contracts of these training venues.
"The contracts will have to signed regarding the training grounds and we cannot now reveal where the training grounds will be located in each city," tournament Project Director Joy Bhattacharjya said.
Ceppi also informed that if Bangalore will have to host the matches, Karnataka State Football Association Stadium with the artificial turf -- which was developed under FIFA funding -- will not be the venue.
There is a plan to construct a new stadium at the same spot after the current KSFA Stadium is demolished. The construction will be done by JSW Group which also owns the local I-League club Bengaluru FC.
"If at all Bangalore host matches, it can be either Kanteerava Stadium or the one which is proposed to be built by a private body. But it will have to pass FIFA guidelines and FIFA inspection team will take a call," he said. Asked the new stadium proposed to be built by a private body in Bangalore can be considered for the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, Ceppi said, "It can be, if it is built soon enough.
A stadium which is going to host 2015 Under-17 World Cup in Chile was built in six months."
Likewise, Mumbai's Cooperage, which also had artificial turf like KSFA Stadium in Bangalore, has been ruled out and D Y Patil Stadium which also hosted Indian Super League matches is expected to host the matches.
"D Y Patil also had a second pitch and there a lot of league matches are held. We are determined to create a legacy of this FIFA tournament and if at all, we have a football specific stadium after Under-17 World Cup, it could be D Y Patil," AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das, who was also present at the interaction, said.
Das said not a penny will be routed through the AIFF regarding the sum of Rs 95 crore to be spent by the Sports Ministry for upgrading the infrastructure at the venues. But in any case, the AIFF is not likely to incur loss as the FIFA will give subsidy to cover the operational cost of the LOC.
"At the end of the tournament, FIFA will work on the details of the subsidy to be given to the LOC. The upper limit of the subsidy is not fixed but we won't go over a certain limit. At the same time, we will ensure that the operational cost of the LOC is covered. We will have our auditors audit all these financial transactions," Yarza said.
The officials also spoke about a stadium planned to be built by Delhi Development Authority at Dwarka where the AIFF has its headquarters. Ceppi said that all the training grounds will have to be within a reasonable geographical distance from the playing venue and the team hotel. He said in many venues, it would be just change in design and addition of facilities -- like providing more change rooms -- and hence a heavy spending may not be needed for their upgradation.