By Keir Radnedge
Suddenly, after those days, weeks and months when it all seemed a far-distant dream â€” not least for England fans â€” the final
countdown is under way towards the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, with deadline for media acceditation applications at the end of this month.
Broadcasters and international agencies have long had their logistical outlines sorted but Englandâ€™s qualification and newly-drawn match schedule have focused minds among the written media.
Tracking the action on the pitch is the simple factor; working out how to accomplish that in a country where travel is an issue is
something else entirely.
Working facilities at the Confederations Cup rehearsal last summer were generally good. But the evidence of the draw in Cape Town demonstrated that, in the realm of media centre catering, lessons had not been learned and complaints had not been heeded.
The travel challenges of South Africa â€” no European-style intercity trains plus expensive flights with uncertain schedules â€” mean journalists are likely to spend more time than before in the stadium media centres on their match days.
FIFA and the South African organisers have been told once more that major improvements are necessary. The Germany 2006 template was ideal and following it should not be so difficult.
Travel complexities will mean much more pressure on media car parking. Once inside the “FIFA ring”, journalists will benefit from free internet access within media centres and tribunes at a World Cup for the first time.
However, be aware that wifi provision within South Africaâ€™s hotels is patchy and unpredictable, even in some of the most expensive. This is assuming, in any case, that accommodation issues can be resolved.
A whistle-stop tour of the new stadia, with FIFA and local organising officials, led to no doubts that the venues will be ready. Indeed, the new Durban stadium is magnificent – completed at a time and cost which puts Wembley to shame plus an arch up which a public viewing car travels to a platform a giddying 320ft above the centre of the pitch.
However sites and size of some of the proposed mixed zones appeared questionable; also, scepticism born of long staircase experience doubts the validity of promised lifts remaining available for the media.
Now, the immediate practicalities: accreditation for the finals closes on January 31. All wishing to apply should contact their Football Association which has been allocated a certain number of unique codes (based on 2006 numbers varied to take account of qualifying nations etc). Once the journalist has received the code they should then use it to enter the application process via the FIFA Media Channel. Ticket applications for the group stage will operate in April, also via the Media Channel.
The FIFA Team Workshop, at which attendance for all national coaches is mandatory, is in Sun City from February 21-23. Accreditation application should be made directly through the Media Channel.
Your SJA subscription was due from JANUARY 1 – click here for details of how to make your payment