Infantino plays down violence fears at 2018 World Cup in Russia

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 16, 2017 7:25 AM

DOHA (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino on Thursday played down concerns about possible violence at the 2018 World Cup in Russia despite several flashpoints involving their supporters at the 2016 European Championship in France.

"I'm not concerned about trouble and violence in 2018. I have full confidence in Russian authorities, they are taking this matter very, very seriously," he said in Doha.

More than 100 England fans were injured following clashes with Russian supporters in Marseille before their group game at Euro 2016, causing UEFA to threaten the team with expulsion from the tournament.

There have been fears of more trouble at next year's tournament. But Infantino said the organizers were already putting plans in place to curb any hooliganism.

"They have been in contact with UEFA and French organizers to learn the lessons from France and this matter is being taken in the utmost seriousness by all," he said.

"As part of this, the Russian government has put in place an ID system which will help us when it comes to any potential trouble. We need to be wary about spreading rumors about hooligans."

He was speaking ahead of a BBC documentary due to air on Thursday evening, which claims to have spoken to some of the Russian hooligans involved in the 2016 trouble.

Infantino also reaffirmed that he hoped to use video referees at the tournament.

"The proposal on the table is about using video technology to help referees. I’m really hopeful that for the World Cup in 2018 we can have a video system to help the referee take the right decisions," he said.

The new assistant referee technology was tried out at the 2016 Club World Cup in Japan.

But Infantino played down suggestions that FIFA was about to scrap the offside rule, following controversial remarks by its technical director Marco van Basten.

"We discuss and debate everything, the offside rule, sin bins as punishments, additional substitutions, but these are discussions that are still far, far, far away from any concrete proposals," he said.

(Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Tom Heneghan)