FIFA to Inspect African Stadiums for Safety Ahead of World Cup Qualifiers

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A FIFA inspection team is to visit four stadiums in Africa this month to check on safety and security regulations for World Cup qualifying matches.

The delegation which also includes members of the Confederation of African Football will visit stadiums in the Democratic Republic of Congo Cameroon Mali and Senegal before the resumption of the African qualifiers for next year's World Cup finals.

FIFA said the inspection was needed after "a number of serious incidents that occurred in some stadiums especially in Africa" in recent World Cup qualifying matches.

There were at least six deaths and several other violent incidents in and around World Cup qualifiers in five African countries during the last round of matches in October.

Three deaths were reported in Guinea in a stadium crush in Conakry later denied by the local football association but confirmed by independent sources. A stampede after a power cut in Togo also caused the death of three people in Lome on the same day. There was also crowd violence in Benin Malawi and Liberia.

FIFA said the stadiums to be inspected in Kinshasa Yaounde Bamako and Dakar had previously failed to comply with FIFA safety directives.

The delegation will also meet local security officials but FIFA did not say what would happen if the venues or security arrangements were found to be inadequate.

Kinshasa's Kamonyola stadium was built a decade ago with Chinese aid and is among the biggest on the continent but has a reputation for poor crowd control and repeated incidents of violence often involving local police and soldiers.

The stadium will host an African zone Group Two match between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana on March 27.

Stadiums in Cameroon notably the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde are run down and have been the source of many complaints from visiting teams over the years. The condition of venues in the country contrasts starkly with Cameroon's success in African football over the last decades.

FIFA said that more stadiums would be inspected in April.

In the last five years more than 200 people have lost their lives at football stadiums across Africa which has a history of bad organisation at matches crammed conditions for spectators and poor police control. Violence has regularly blighted major football encounters on the continent.

African countries have been quick in the past to upgrade infrastructure if it means avoiding losing home advantage or participation in important competitions.