Manuel Veth –
The pictures of the newly renovated Yekaterinburg Stadium made the round on social media this week. As part of hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the organisation committee has added temporary stands on both ends of the field. To make room for 35,000 spectators those stands are outside the existing structure of the newly renovated stadium.
— StadiumDB.com (@StadiumDB) September 29, 2017
Architecturally this is undoubtedly an odd solution and has been ridiculed on social media and many English speaking news outlets as a “typical Russian” solution. Some even suggest that this is more evidence that the World Cup in Russia is bound to fail. Many of the stories produced on the Central Stadium fail to show the big picture, however.
Drawings, which were shown to the Futbolgrad Network last summer during the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup already alluded to this solution. Furthermore, an architectural rendering of the stadium, which is available online, further shows that it was always the plan of the organisers to use temporary stands during the World Cup.
Yekaterinburg Stadium – Russia Wants to Avoid White Elephants
The reason for this is that the organisation committee in Russia wants to avoid creating white elephants, as it was the case in South Africa and Brazil or pay massive amounts of money to reconstruct stadiums after the tournament, as it was the case with the Olympic Stadium in London. As a result, the Central Stadium was renovated keeping intact the old Stalinesque façade, which is under protection, of the facility.
The architects then chose to build a new stadium inside the old facility. With steep stands and a higher façade that has been placed on top of the old façade, the capacity of the stadium could be increased to 23,000. The façade’s on each end of the field have been left open to allow temporary stands to be build that seemingly grows outside of the stadium which enables the Yekaterinburg Stadium to meet FIFA standards during the four games the city it is hosting.
Following the tournament, the stands will be removed, and the stadium renovation finished providing the city’s local team Ural Yekaterinburg with a new stadium that can host 23,000 spectators. Some of the comments pointed out that this was a ridiculous idea that looked not only stupid but also was dangerous.
Neither is the case. In fact, this sort of solution has been used in countless other tournaments as well. During the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, for example, the new Corinthians Stadium in São Paulo also had a temporary stand installed, which was located outside the actual stadium structure. Another example includes the 2002 World Cup stadium in Kobe, which hosted the round of 16 between Brazil and Belgium.
In both cases, the stands did not indeed fit into the architecture of the facility. But like it is the case in Yekaterinburg the stands allow all visitors to have a clear view of the entire pitch. Experience therefore not only shows that this kind of arrangement is safe, but that it also guarantees visitors that they can be part of the whole show when the World Cup rolls into town.
Yekaterinburg Stadium – More Than a Temporary Solution?
With all this in mind, it becomes a little silly to criticise the host. But that is perhaps were digging a bit deeper might become useful. Although the facility will be ready and fulfil all the requirements of a World Cup stadium, there are some questions about the future of the facility that goes beyond the actual tournament and its current architectural design.
Ural has recently put forward a proposal that they would like the temporary stands to remain after the tournament. Technically speaking the stands could remain indefinitely after the World Cup leaves. Logistically this would be a stupid solution for the club. Fans would be exposed to the harsh Russian winter on the stands much more so than inside the facility.
Another problem is attendance. Ural play in a temporary stadium at the moment and average just 5,319 spectators a game this season. Sports.ru has speculated that the reason for Ural’s demands could be money. The city paid for the construction of the temporary stands but currently refuses to pay for the dismantling of the stands following the tournament, which is estimated to cost one billion roubles (€15 million).
The city’s contract to manage the stadium will expire on December 31, 2017, and there is uncertainty about who will take over the management of the facility—presumably the club. Ural’s motion could, however, be understood as a political manoeuvre to force the city to pay for the costs of removing the temporary stands at the Yekaterinburg Stadium. Here is hoping that the manoeuvre will be successful otherwise the Ural and the city could indeed be in for a rude awakening following the tournament.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.