Fabio Capello has been given an extension on the deadline that Fifa imposes on World Cup nations signing contracts with their training grounds so the Football Association can be sure that England's chosen base is built in time. The Royal Bafokeng sports campus is still far from finished, as The Independent reported yesterday, and although the FA said it was satisfied with yesterday's site visit there is much to do.
Enough of the national federations have expressed concerns about their team's prospective training grounds that Fifa has been forced to push back today's deadline when it was to announce where all 32 teams would be based for the summer tournament.
According to the original Fifa schedule, the FA should have signed its contract with Royal Bafokeng by now. It has not done so and is still even yet to announce officially that it has chosen it as its base – which it hopes will give Bafokeng bosses an incentive to finish the work.
Capello visited the hotel yesterday with a delegation that included the chief executive of the 2010 World Cup, Danny Jordaan. The FA wants the help of Fifa to ensure the Bafokeng project will be completed for England's arrival in early June. It also wanted to demonstrate why it will not be signing by today's deadline.
In the face of criticism, officials from Bafokeng said yesterday that the complex would be ready in time. Chief executive, Niall Carroll, said: "Following the visits, we are confident that the Bafokeng sports campus will be ready and thoroughly tested in time for the World Cup. Construction remains on schedule and the primary pitches will be comparable to that of the Bafokeng Sports Palace, rated as one of the best in the country."
The FA said the visit to Bafokeng, which also included the Fifa general secretary, Jerome Valcke, and Issa Hayatou, the president of the Confederation of African Football, was a long-standing arrangement and not in response to reports critical of progress made on the campus. Yesterday a spokesman for Fifa said it was happy for England to miss the deadline to sign up with training grounds and had a flexible attitude towards competing nations' different needs.
The spokesman also claimed that 29 of the 32 competing nations had signed contracts with their tournament bases but refused to name the other two countries who had not.
Informal conversations in Sun City, where delegates from the competing nations are gathering for a conference, indicated that there are problems for teams finding suitable bases. Algeria, one of England's first round opponents, are yet to find their base. Even Argentina, who have secured the high performance centre at the University of Pretoria which was Capello's first choice, have concerns about some aspects of the base.
The standard of accommodation for elite football teams was always likely to be a problem for South Africa. Jordaan reacted angrily to criticism of Bafokeng in English newspapers yesterday, going as far as to claim that the site has been completed even when it clearly has not.
Jordaan said: "The place is finished. I can take you there now and walk you through room by room and show you. It's unfair to say anything else. All England need is a hotel and two training pitches and they have that.
"England [the Football Association] are not concerned about phase two or three [of the construction] because that will finish in 2013. What they need is a first-class hotel and training pitches and that is what they will have at Bafokeng."
The Bafokeng complex is being built by Royal Bafokeng Holdings which is a commercial company for the Bafokeng nation who are ruled by King Kgosi Molotlegi. He is the chairman of the company, widely regarded as the driving force behind the project and crucial to delivering it on time.
*Fifa has announced it will drug-test players from World Cup nations from April onwards. The blood and urine tests will take place without notice at training grounds.Reuse content