FA hopes for Fifa leniency on Cup camp

England hope for deadline extension because of fears over condition of pitches
Click to follow
The Independent Football

The Football Association is hopeful of a deadline extension from Fifa before it makes a final decision on whether it is satisfied with its problematic South Africa World Cup base outside Rustenburg or to go elsewhere at the last minute.

Fifa has demanded that all competing nations submit their first three choices for a World Cup base in order of preference by Saturday – and that the final decision is made and contracts are signed by 31 January. However, that will be too soon for the England manager, Fabio Capello, and his assistants to make a decision on whether the Royal Bafokeng sports campus's pitches will be up to standard in time for June.

It is hoped that the governing body and Match Services, the organising company responsible for the tournament, will allow the FA to take a little longer over its contract with Royal Bafokeng Holdings. Yesterday a Fifa spokeswoman said that its competition rules were clear. "All contractual elements have to be sorted [by 31 January]," she said. "There are currently still quite a few teams travelling through South Africa [looking at potential bases]. Some have announced their decisions." England's problem with Royal Bafokeng is that the training pitches are nowhere near the standards expected by Capello, who wants them to match those of the three stadiums in which they will play. Having made a surprise visit last week, he had originally planned to go back to Phokeng, outside Rustenburg, in February, although under the current Fifa rules the FA needs to have made a decision by then.

The process by which the 55 team bases on the official Fifa list are allocated is complicated. Certain bases are wanted by more than one nation and it is unclear how some nations are already in a position to announce their South Africa headquarters while others, like England, have not even given Fifa their first three options.

The Danish Football Federation, for example, has announced Denmark will stay in a country estate near the Western Cape town of Knysna. The France team are staying nearby in the town of Kuyza, close to the city of George, despite qualifying more than two months after England via the play-offs on 18 November.

There have been suggestions that if the English FA does not make a choice soon on the suitability of Royal Bafokeng it stands to lose it to a competing nation. However, under the rules, each base can only figure as the first choice for one country and, as it stands, Royal Bafokeng will be England's first choice when they submit their preferences to Fifa on Saturday.