‘We want to dispel any security doubts’: Russia opens 2018 World Cup fan center in London
The center aims to provide comprehensive information for British fans planning to visit Russia for world football’s showpiece event next summer.
Aleksey Cherepanov, deputy chief of the Visit Russia office in the UK, said in comments to TASS on Monday that one of the aims of the center was to allay any fears British fans have over security arrangements for the tournament.
“We want the British people to see that all the doors are open for them,” Cherepanov said.
“They can call in to ask any question any time. This what we are here for, to dispel their doubts about security matters and nuances of the trip.”
Fears have frequently been raised in the UK media over the supposed dangers that fans face in Russia.
English and Russian fans clashed repeatedly at the European championships in France in 2016, when the two teams met in a group-stage match in Marseille.
Earlier this year, the BBC aired a documentary claiming that Russian hooligans would be waiting to clash again with any English fans arriving for the 2018 World Cup.
UK tabloid the Mirror also ran a piece earlier in the year claiming that Russian men participating in a traditional pancake festival ritual were actually hooligans taking part in a mass training brawl.
Russian fans have rejected the fears, notably when supporters of Spartak Moscow unveiled a large banner during a game last season reading ‘Blah Blah Channel’ – mocking claims made in the BBC documentary.
Spartak Moscow fans at Lokomotiv today with a banner "BBC - Blah Blah Channel" in reference to the BBC documentary "Russia's Hooligan Army" pic.twitter.com/hPf0z0k5q9— Danny Armstrong (@DannyWArmstrong) March 18, 2017
Officials from Russia’s Local Organizing Committee and other authorities have also stressed that security will be of the utmost priority at the World Cup.
Russia recently hosted the FIFA Confederations Cup – seen as a warm-up to next year’s main event – and the tournament was widely praised for its organization and the welcoming atmosphere given to visiting fans.
Cherepanov noted that the new center in London, which will be running in test mode until it officially opens in September, will also provide details on the FAN-ID system that will be in operation for the World Cup as well as travel arrangements for fans.
"After the tournament finals draw on December 6, it will be announced where the England squad will play and we will be able to recommend fans optimal route options. Say, we can hint how to save money on hotels - just to buy a ticket for a night train," he said.
Rail travel between the host cities will be free for fans throughout the tournament.
"We are establishing contacts with all British sports organizations working with fans and offer our assistance in information backing,” Cherepanov added.
“Apart from that, we provide people with regular information about Russia, its habits and ways and strongly advise them to always have documents on them. I hope as the tournament approaches we will know which restaurants and sports bars will broadcast the matches to make it possible for those who don’t have tickets to watch them."
The 2018 World Cup will run from June 14 to July 15 across 12 stadiums in 11 host cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg and Samara.