Fifa pulls plug on Futsal Arena

Sukhumbhand gripes he wasn't told ahead of time

Fifa has decided not to use the Bangkok Futsal Arena (BFA) to host the 2012 Futsal World Cup competition, including the final match, due to safety concerns.

"Although further significant progress has been made, including the installation of a pitch, the key criteria laid out following the committee meeting on Oct 31 have not been sufficiently met," Fifa Futsal Committee said in a statement posted on the world football governing body's website yesterday.

"The safety of spectators, teams and all other visitors to the stadium are of paramount importance. Fifa and the local organising committee therefore concluded that such a fundamental issue, as well as the functionality of core services and facilities, cannot be compromised."

The decision was based on reports submitted by the Fifa inspection group, including safety and security experts, who carried out an evaluation of the stadium site of the BFA in Nong Chok district last week. "The BFA will not be ready to host six matches on Nov 14 [quarter-finals], 16 [semi-finals] and 18 [final]," Fifa said.

The quarter-final matches scheduled to be played next Wednesday will shift to Bangkok's Nimibutr Gymnasium, while the semi-finals and final will be hosted at the Hua Mark Indoor Stadium, Fifa said.

Both stadiums have already hosted group-stage matches.

Tickets that have been purchased for the six scheduled matches at the BFA will be valid at the other venues.

Fifa's decision dealt a serious blow to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), which is in charge of the construction of the 1.2-billion-baht stadium, situated on the BMA's 10-rai land plot in the east of Bangkok.

The 12,000-seat BFA was originally slated to host matches from the first round. But construction delays forced changes to the schedule.

City Hall missed the handover deadline again on Oct 29, prompting Fifa to delay the decision on whether to use the stadium until yesterday _ a day after the BMA completed the pitch with wooden parquet flooring.

Upon learning about Fifa's decision, Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said he felt sorry for all people who had worked hard on the arena.

He also defended himself, saying he had fulfilled his responsibilities to complete the stadium.

City Hall did not suspend the construction of the stadium even when facing flooding in the surrounding areas for about five months last year, he said.

As many as 650 people from Fifa came to test and examine the arena on Monday and they appeared satisfied, he said.

MR Sukhumbhand said he thought Fifa probably made the decision not to use the arena because of a lack of additional VIP rooms. City Hall was still in the process of adding extra space to accommodate about 300 VIPs, he said.

"Fifa did not give us any feedback. Nor did it give us a call," MR Sukhumbhand said. "It should have notified us before announcing its decision publicly."

The governor would today address a press conference in detail about Fifa's decision.

Deputy Bangkok governor Taya Teep-suwan said she regretted Fifa's decision because City Hall had always followed Fifa's regulations. The new stadium would probably be turned into a youth sports stadium where national sports events would be held, she said.

Ong-arj Kosinkha, secretary-general of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT), said there was nothing the association could do about Fifa's decision. "We are quite disappointed that the Fifa will not allow the use of the BFA," he said.

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