Joburg may snub AFCON
Johannesburg - Johannesburg has become the latest major South African city to balk at being a host for next year's African Cup of Nations (AFCON), which would leave the tournament without the landmark Soccer City Stadium as a venue.
It's the latest and biggest blow to South Africa's troubled bidding process to choose venues for the 2013 African Cup, with newly built stadiums in Cape Town and Durban also looking unlikely to participate because of high costs.
The absence of South Africa's three iconic World Cup stadiums, which hosted the final and semi-finals at the world's biggest football tournament in 2010, would cast doubts over that competition's legacy in the country and the future use of those venues.
"The city has indicated that it is not in a position to host games and has therefore not signed a host agreement," City of Johannesburg spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said in an e-mail to The Associated Press (AP).
The 90 000-plus capacity Soccer City - now known as FNB Stadium - staged the 2010 World Cup final and was expected to also host the 2013 Cup of Nations final. It is the biggest soccer stadium in Africa.
Tugwana did not give reasons for Johannesburg's decision, but potential host cities have reportedly balked at paying high fees to organisers.
An official in Cape Town this week said its bid to be a host city was running over budget because of "critical issues" that were unresolved in the bidding process organised by the South African Football Association (SAFA).
"The City of Cape Town is committed to being a Host City for AFCON 2013 and is excited by this honour and opportunity," Cape Town mayoral committee member Grant Pascoe said in a statement. "However, the City of Cape Town has repeatedly highlighted its concerns with SAFA about certain contractual obligations and the impact that the possible undefined costs could have on both Cape Town and on other municipalities."
Pascoe told the AP that Cape Town officials were waiting for SAFA to provide feedback.
SAFA and its local organising committee have reportedly asked for R20m from each host city to be considered, although LOC chief executive Mvuzo Mbebe said there had been "distortions" in the media over that figure and the financial commitments required by potential host cities.
Mbebe declined to discuss the process in detail in a meeting with reporters last week when South Africa signed the organising agreement with the Confederation of African Football.
SAFA has delayed the initial announcement of the host venues until April 20. South Africa's smaller World Cup stadiums in northern cities like Rustenburg, Nelspruit and Polokwane are now tipped to be included, with Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town missing.
Cape Town Stadium hasn't hosted a major football game since late 2010.
African Cup of Nations organisers have also said attracting crowds and filling stadiums was their top priority next year, meaning some of South Africa's shining new World Cup stadiums may be too big and too difficult to sell out for the lower-profile African Cup.
The recent African Cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea had problems with poor crowds and large swatches of empty seats were obvious on television broadcasts - even for some knockout games.
Hicham El Amrani, the secretary general of the Confederation of African Football, conceded that bigger was not necessarily better for the Cup of Nations. Instead, El Amrani said that having full stadiums was "one of the key focuses, if not the priority focus for us."
"We cannot only consider iconic stadiums just for the fact that they are beautiful. They are World Cup stadiums, but they have a capacity of 80 000, or 60 000," he said. "It's a range of factors and parameters that we select, so we don't necessarily go for the most beautiful and biggest four or five venues and then that's it.
"No, if we want to fill the stadiums and attract the fans as well we have to consider the kind of capacity."