x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Stadiums upgraded for Club World Cup

As tickets went on sale yesterday, organisers of the Fifa Club World Cup international football tournament revealed how the city is preparing.

Chuck Blazer, the chairman of the Club World Cup Organising Committee, is flanked by Abdullatif al Sayegh, left, and Yousuf Abdullah during a press conference at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.
Chuck Blazer, the chairman of the Club World Cup Organising Committee, is flanked by Abdullatif al Sayegh, left, and Yousuf Abdullah during a press conference at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // Big-time football is coming to Abu Dhabi in December and as tickets went on sale yesterday, organisers of the Fifa Club World Cup international football tournament revealed how the city is preparing. The tournament will match Al Ahli, the current UAE Football League champions, against six continental club champions. The seven teams will compete in eight matches over 11 days for a prize fund of $16 million (Dh59m), with the winning club taking home $5 million.

Among the preparations announced yesterday: ? More than $20m will be spent upgrading Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Improvements will also be made at Zayed Sports City Stadium. ? Park-and-ride shuttle bus routes will be launched to alleviate parking problems. ? A special security zone will be cordoned off around each stadium, allowing access only to ticket holders. ? Up to 600 match stewards will be hired to manage the flow of supporters through each ground.

?A friendly match between the UAE's national side and Manchester City has been scheduled for November 12 to test the tournament arrangements. Joining Al Ahli in the tournament from December 9-19 will be the European champions Barcelona, the Argentine side Estudiantes de La Plata, Auckland City and Atlante from Cancun, Mexico. The winning teams from the African and Asian football confederations, yet to be decided, will complete the field.

This is the first time the competition has been held in the Middle East. Thomas Gurtner, the tournament director, said he would meet the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority to discuss security and crowd-control plans. He did not rule out calling on the authority to cap hotel rates during the contest. Other meetings between police, tourism chiefs and World Cup organisers will be held in the coming months to plan for the influx of supporters.

Organisers are upgrading seating at the 45,000-seat Zayed Stadium and the 42,000-capacity Mohammed Stadium and will erect a fans' zone within the security perimeter where fans can buy non-alcoholic drinks and merchandise. "We will introduce a security pyramid around the venues to make sure only people who have tickets will be able to enter," said Mr Gurtner, adding it would be possible for fans to buy tickets on match days outside the secure areas.

Fans will have their tickets checked when they enter the secure zone, which will extend about 200 metres around the stadium, and then rechecked when they enter the ground. "At the moment we are in the process of upgrading the stadiums up to the Fifa standard," Mr Gurtner said. "We are building extra dressing rooms ( at Zayed Stadium) to give all the teams who are playing in the doubleheader matches ample time to prepare ahead of games."

The Zayed Stadium manager, Mubarak Saleh, countered concerns that a shortage of parking would lead to gridlock around the venues. "Car parking will not be a problem," he said. "There will be around 10,000 spaces at the stadium and we will be able to use parking at the National Exhibition Centre and Sheikh Zayed Mosque. "There will also be a shuttle bus from the city centre, Bani Yas and Shahama to the stadium."

Police did not comment on the specifics of their policing strategy, but released a statement saying: "Abu Dhabi Police are working closely with Fifa and the other organizers of this event to ensure the safety and security of all those participating and attending this major and prestigious occasion. "As the event draws nearer the Abu Dhabi Police will make sure that the public are fully informed of any news and information that will help them make the most of the tournament."

Event tickets will be assigned to specific seats, rather than the traditional system in the UAE that sees people buy entry to the ground and then choose their own seat. Mr Gurtner did not expect the new ticketing system to cause difficulties as billboard and internet adverts would make clear that spectators must take specific seats. It is not known how many foreign supporters will come to the UAE for the tournament, although organisers said they expected to have estimates within weeks.

Tickets are available on the web at www.FIFA.com/uae2009 or by calling 800-5425 in the UAE. Both venues will be alcohol-free and will have dedicated female-only and family stands. chamilton@thenational.ae