Alexey Sorokin, director general of the organizing committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, played down what he called overblown concerns about football hooliganism while discussing stadium surprises and the new Video Assistant Referee.
Sorokin, who replaced Vitaly Mutko at the end of December, said in an interview with Efe on Monday that he wanted to put to bed questions in the British press about a possible alliance between Russian and Argentine ultras to confront English hooligans.
"I really think that the British press exaggerates. It's bizarre to think people would go to the World Cup to commit acts of violence," Sorokin explained to Efe, a little over two weeks before the global sporting event kicks off.
"People go to the World Cup to watch football and learn about the host country," he said, but added: "In the framework of international cooperation, we have exchanged data on people who are blacklisted and who are prohibited from accessing stadiums."
The director general said fans can look forward to discovering just how much Russian culture, identity, and cuisine varies among each of the World Cup host cities.
"We will try to show Russia as a very diverse country, with the venues including large cities that everyone knows," he said.
While Sorokin admitted there had been delays at Samara Arena in southeast Russia, he was confident the World Cup would go off without a hitch.
"All the stadiums are ready for the tournament and all test matches have been held there. According to FIFA regulations, three test matches must be organized," he said.
The 2018 World Cup Russia will go down in history due to the implementation of the Video Assistant Referee technology, which has polarised the football world over whether it will change the game for better or worse.
Sorokin was unconcerned, saying "VAR was already tested during the FIFA Confederations Cup. Now, we have been able to improve and perfect it."
"We have taken into consideration several aspects and it will be better for all the fans inside the stadium," he predicted.
The director general remained tight-lipped on his expectations for the Russian national team in the tournament.
"As a member of the organizing committee, we have to be absolutely impartial. We ensure that all teams will compete in the same conditions," he explained.
"But as a Russian citizen, I can only wish our national team success. I think we have a good chance of advancing from the group stage to the round of 16," he added.