Brazil’s Sao Paulo, South America’s largest city, could lose its right to stage matches at the 2014 World Cup because of delays in building its stadium, soccer’s governing body FIFA warned on Tuesday.
The threat brought an angry reaction from stadium owners SC Corinthians, who said FIFA was welcome to move games if it wanted to and said they would not tolerate any pressure.
FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke said the body would not accept failure to meet the December deadline for the completion of the Estadio Itaquerao, which is to stage six World Cup matches, including the opening one.
Constructors have already warned that the stadium will not be ready until the end of February.
“We have said clearly that delays are not possible for the World Cup,” Valcke told reporters in Brasilia after visiting the Estadio Mane Garrincha, which will be used for next month’s Confederations Cup and the World Cup.
“We are going to discuss the situation in Sao Paulo very firmly,” he added, suggesting that FIFA could transfer matches elsewhere. “We can change everything until the tickets start to be sold, which gives us until Aug. 1 to change the stadiums.”
Corinthians, who do not currently have their own stadium, had originally planned to build a 48,000-capacity arena, but agreed to add 20,000 temporary seats to accommodate next year’s World Cup.
The club said FIFA had agreed to give them an extra two months after work on the stadium was delayed by bureaucratic difficulties.
“If FIFA understand that they have to move the venue for the opening game, then they can be our guests,” the club said.
“The situation set out by Valcke today seems a bit strange to Corinthians as … the deadline was extended by Valcke himself until February 2014,” it added.
Valcke upset Brazilians last year when he said the country needed “a kick up the backside” following numerous delays in preparations.
Four of the six stadiums which will be used at the Confederations Cup overran the deadline for completion, but FIFA has emphasized it will not allow similar delays before the World Cup itself.