World Cup 2018: how Russia’s stadiums are shaping up (or not)…part three

In parts one and two of this feature we’ve seen how Moscow is doing pretty well in building World Cup 2018 venues, St. Petersburg is lagging behind and will take more than a decade, whilst Kaliningrad and Volgograd might never get built.

Here are the final four host cities – along with one city that isn’t a host but should be:

Strelka Stadium, Nizhniy Novgorod


The authorities have gone back to their original plan of building this stadium close to the city centre, at a confluence between the Volga and the Oka. There was an edge of town plan which wasn’t popular with some fans. This stadium has things in common with several of the others examined so far: looks wonderful in the pictures, but the original plans are being scaled back and work has yet to start.

Is it really needed?

Nizhniy Novgorood is a big city (1.25m people), so a modern, sizeable stadium (25,000 after the World Cup) isn’t out of place. Whether there’s anyone to play in it is another question. The city’s biggest side, Volga, quickly rose through the leagues and last season spent heavily on ageing stars to try and stay in the top flight. Following relegation, the club appear to have serious financial problems and could find themselves relegated again or even resigning from the league.

New Stadium, Samara

A stadium with neither a name nor a location until recently. The site has now been decided upon and the first stone was laid in the summer, but the project is a controversial one. A gigantic 930 hectare complex is planned to include more than the stadium, but it will destroy green spaces and be partly built on land belonging to local people. A recent petition against it gained over 1000 signatures. As for the name, ‘Spherical Stadium’ has been reported, along with the suggestion of one local politician: ‘The Crimean Stadium’….

Is it really needed?

Samara is considered by many to be a true football city. It has a well-supported local club, Krilya Sovietov, which had been an ever-present in the Russian top flight until relegation last season – but they are favourites for a quick return. In the Premier League their home gates regularly outstripped those of Moscow clubs CSKA and Dinamo – and a new stadium would surely see them add to this. Whether ‘The Crimean Stadium’, built on private greenbelt land, is to everybody’s taste is another matter.

Kazan Arena, Kazan


The first of the stadiums that has been fully built and operates as a football venue. It is, according to its builders, the safest stadium in Europe. By 2018 the stadium will already be something of a veteran when it comes to big events. Last year it hosted the Summer Universiade (picture above), and in 2015 will host the World Aquatics Championships – two temporary 50 metre swimming pools will be constructed on the pitch for this.

Is it really needed?

Kazan’s location some way east of Moscow yet still relatively close to Europe seems to be making it an attractive location for international sporting competitions. The locals have also taken to it – Kazan’s attendances had slipped into four figures last season, but so far two home games in the new arena have seen an average of 35,000.

Central Stadium, Ekaterinburg


This stadium underwent considerable reconstruction between 2006 and 2011 – but with a capacity of 27,000 it will need further work to be ready for the World Cup. The original plan was for for 45,000 seats, but hot off the press is news that FIFA have announced 35,000 seaters will be acceptable for WC2018. Building work has been postponed whilst new plans are considered. That the stadium might not need closing is great news for the city’s main side, Ural, who were facing the prospect of playing home games in another city for an extended period of time.

Is it really needed?

Another big Russian city that suits a good-sized venue. Ural are in the top flight and seem to be carving out a niche for themselves as tough-to-beat outsiders. They attract good crowds (15,000-20,000) for bigger games, and a further improved stadium coupled with a dose of World Cup fever might see this increase further.

And one city that (probably) won’t be a part of things

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAСтадион_ФК_Краснодар_21_июня_2013

Above are pictures of arenas in the southern city of Krasnodar, home to Premier league teams Kuban and FC Krasnodar. On the left is the Kuban Stadium, which is – with a capacity of 35,000 – currently one of the biggest in Russia. On the right is the FC Krasnodar Stadium, which will be ready by 2016 and have a capacity of 36,000. Both sides have equipped themselves well at the level – relative newcomers FC Krasnodar seem to be the team most likely to challenge the Moscow/St. Petersburg dominance in the top flight over the next decade. The sides both attract good crowds to the Kuban Stadium, which has also held three recent international matches.

But neither stadium will feature at the World Cup, and it’s hard to understand why. Though Krasnodar is in the south of Russia, security isn’t an issue as it is in Makhachkala (which also has a great new stadium). The city’s sides have only recently established themselves in the top flight, so there isn’t the football history of Volgograd – but more than there is in Saransk. FC Krasnodar owner Sergey Galitskiy (a billionaire who’s building a football club from the foundations up) isn’t always popular with his peers or with the Russian football authorities – though that wouldn’t explain why Kuban and its stadium were excluded.

The decision not to include Krasnodar was a big surprise to many Russian football observers. Every now and again – given the lack of progress with some projects – people suggest that Krasnodar will be included after all. It seems unlikely, though – what’s more probable is that the list of host cities will be reduced.

In summary:

Three big footballing centres – Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kazan – will be ready and each of the stadiums will be impressive.

Sochi will also be there and will also impress

There seems to be little concern over Samara’s controversial project – though the final version will surely be less ambitious.

Ekaterinburg will be breathing a sign of relief that they only need to build 8000 and not 18,000 more seats at an already decent venue.

The projects in Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Saransk, Rostov and Nizhniy Novgorod look shakier, and it’s possible that two of these (Kaliningrad and Volgograd most likely) won’t get built at all. And in the unlikely event that Russia is stripped of the right to hold the World Cup, many of these projects won’t end up being completed.

Saul Pope is a Russian/Ukrainian football blogger and contributor to When Saturday Comes magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @saulpope

Picture Attributions:

Strelka Stadium: «Nizhny Novgorod. Model of Strelka Side in future» участника Алексей Белобородов – собственная работа. Под лицензией Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 с сайта Викисклада –

Kazan Arena: «Closing of 2013 Summer Universiade 79» участника Government Press and Information Office – Под лицензией Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 с сайта Викисклада –

Central Stadium: «CentralStadium» участника Владимир Задумин (Ekamag) – Под лицензией Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 с сайта Викисклада –

Kuban Stadium: “Kuban Stadium FC Kuban Krasnodar vs FC Rostov, Russian Premier League, Krasnodar, Russian 2005 Federation” by JukoFF – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –,_



FC Krasnodar Stadium: «Стадион ФК Краснодар 21 июня 2013». С сайта Википедия –


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