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Bangkok governor lays down the facts about Futsal

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra on Friday issued an open letter explaining the facts behind the construction of Bangkok Futsal Arena (BFA) in Nong Chok district.

The arena became an embarrassing issue after Fifa failed to approve its use for this month’s Futsal World Cup.The government and many sectors of society have blamed Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

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FACTS ABOUT FUTSAL

by S.Bangkunprom

Over the last few days, there has been a great deal of confusion concerning the construction of Bangkok Futsal Arena (BFA) in Nong Chok District by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). Perhaps these facts will help to clear up some of the confusion.

FACT: The Government's final approval for the BMA to proceed with the Bt1.2 billion construction project was given on November 25, 2011, along with a budget allocation of Bt1 million in the 2011 Fiscal Year Budget. There was no budget allocation at all for the 2012 Fiscal Year Budget.

FACT: The BMA in practice could not proceed with the project immediately because all its institutional, administrative and manpower energies had to be directed towards flood relief and, afterwards, post-flood cleaning and garbage collecting operations.

FACT: After encountering difficulties in finding a construction firm willing to undertake the job in the face of obvious time constraints, a construction contract was signed on January 13, 2012, and the foundation stone was laid on January 24, 2012.

FACT: The government-approved design of the BFA calls for the construction of a very big stadium covering 10 rai, or nearly 2 hectares, of land, with 30,000 square meters of usable space and without central supporting pillars. The schedule for the completion of the construction was April 2013, but it was understood that the stadium was to be made ready for the Futsal World Cup in 270 days.

FACT: It was completed in 286 days, at midnight on November 6, 2012, only 16 days behind schedule, which many experts do not consider unreasonable for a building so large and difficult to build. The only parts not finished in accordance to an understanding with FIFA were the VIP and Royal rooms, which were duly completed on November 8.

To all intents and purposes the stadium was made ready for match play a full week before the first World Cup matches were to be played, on November 14. The problem was that FIFA chose to have its final inspection on the morning of November 5.

FACT: The BMA has not been officially notified by FIFA about the latter's decision not to use the BFA. We can only surmise from the press release in Zurich on November 6 that security and safety were two of the main concerns.

FACT: The BMA has the legal authority to certify the safety of all buildings.

FACT: When FIFA asked for documents related to the safety of the stadium and spectators, the BMA chose not to exercise this authority and, instead, asked the Engineering Institute of Thailand under Royal Patronage to provide its own viewpoints regarding the correctness of the construction process and the quality of the stadium. These were given to and formally received by FIFA, along with other relevant documents, on November 5.

FACT: Where safety precautions for spectators are concerned, between October 18 and November 5, FIFA asked for modifications to the spectator stands, which the BMA duly carried out. All the modifications asked for on the morning of the inspection on November 5, including others not related to the stands, were completed on the morning of November 6.

FACT: During the November 5 inspection, FIFA asked the BMA to gather some 600 volunteers to engage in an evacuation practice. The 600 were evacuated in 3 minutes 40 seconds, below the set norm of 5 minutes and 40 seconds.

FACT: The BMA endeavoured to act in good faith throughout its partnership with FIFA. This is best demonstrated in the case of the futsal playing surface. In June 2012, the BMA made an order for its manufacture by a company in Illinois, USA, in accordance with FIFA's specifications and instructions. Hua Mark Indoor Stadium made a similar order in September 2012, but received it first on a direct shipment from the US. The BMA's was supposed to arrive on October 20 but the date was later postponed to October 25.

Then it transpired that the shipment was not direct but went to China, from where BMA officials attempted to facilitate its reshipment but for mysterious reasons lost contact with the shippers. So in the meantime, the BMA tried to secure a backup and ordered a new playing surface from Malaysia and Taiwan.

FIFA then advised us to buy an Italian made one, so we ordered it as well. After the two procurements were made, FIFA informed us on November 1, that the US-made, China-diverted shipment would arrive in Bangkok on November 3. So by November 4, the BMA had on its hands three different, and very expensive, futsal pitches. FIFA then asked us to use the American one, and we duly complied, completing the task of laying down the surface before the November 5 inspection. Luckily there were generous donors, so the BMA did not have to pay almost Bt20 million for the other two, which we are now using for our youth sports centres.

The BMA acknowledges its shortcomings in making the stadium ready for match play later than first intended. But the delay was no more than 16 days, while the main cause of the severe time constraints was the flooding in 2011, an "act of God" which no one had foreseen or could wish away. Despite these, and other, constraints, the BMA had worked hard to fulfil its commitment, as shown by the "FACTS" above.

We regret the shortcomings, but still believe in the power of our good faith.

We are down but not out.

Oftentimes clouds have silver linings.

One good thing which has come out of all this is that the people of Bangkok have one great multipurpose stadium to play and watch sports in, plus three international standard futsal surfaces to play on. Another is that the episode serves as a reminder that, like politics, international sports can be a cut throat affair.


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