Beckenbauer furious over World Cup safety report

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The Independent Football

Franz Beckenbauer has criticised the findings of a report released yesterday which claims Germany's World Cup stadiums have serious safety faults and that lessons have not been learned from the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters.

The survey by the respected consumer watchdog Stiftung Warentest, claims four stadiums in Berlin, Leipzig, Kaiserslautern and Gelsenkirchen are "substantially" unsafe - particularly in their ability to allow supporters on to the pitch in case of crowd problems or fire. Eight other grounds were deemed to have lesser safety problems.

World Cup organisers, including the committee president and the former West Germany captain Beckenbauer, have attempted to dismiss the findings.

"I'm sick of all this 'we know best'," he said. "Stiftung Warentest may know a lot about facial cream, olive oil and vacuum cleaners - and that is what they should stick to."

The report says: "There are still faults in terms of safety, escape routes and construction which do not correspond to the latest technology.

"The importance of escape routes on to the pitch was shown by the disasters in Brussels in 1985 and in Sheffield in 1989.

"During a panic in the stands, spectators usually run down towards the pitch.

"Overall, this is a sad result for such an important issue. Germany should have put international standards in place. But there are five months to go. This time should be used by those responsible to remove these faults as far as possible."

England will not play their group matches in any of the four stadiums named but could play a quarter-final in either Berlin or Gelsenkirchen where the report says stairs are too steep and obstructions prevent a quick exit.

Beckenbauer was joined by representatives of some of the venues who insisted the grounds are in good condition to host the event which begins on 9 June.

Berlin's Olympic Stadium spokesman, Christoph Meyer, believes the recent work done there is satisfactory.

"We will obviously look at the results. But in Berlin we have a building which has lasted the test of time and was renovated between 2000 and 2004 according to regulations for buildings of historical significance," he said.

The Leipzig stadium business manager, Winfried Lonzen, added: "At the end of 2004, the stadium passed all tests [for insurance, building regulations and fire protection] with no problems. Even Fifa saw no problems with the stadium when Germany played Cameroon during the Confederations Cup."

The World Cup organisers insist that the study considered possible situations of crowd panic rather than merely the existing building regulations.

The organising committee vice-president, Wolfgang Niersbach, said: "The committee is open to any suggestions which aim to improve the general framework, and thus also the implementation of this incredible project that is the 2006 Fifa World Cup.

"We will, however, resist any unnecessary attempts at spreading panic which will only serve to create uncertainty among fans and harm the image and reputation of the 2006 Fifa World Cup Germany."

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