(WFI) Despite major delays in building the 2018 World Cup stadium in Rostov and Russia’s chronic financial problems, sports minister Vitaly Mutko says the number of host venues will not be slashed.

Russia is staging the FIFA showpiece in 12 stadiums in 11 host cities spread across the country.

In the southern city of Rostov, the 45,000-seat stadium is reportedly seven months behind schedule. The completion date is now slated for December 2017, leaving no margin for further slippage.

Mutko, head of the 2018 World Cup organising committee, has previously pinpointed Rostov’s $300 million project as among the most challenging of the 12 stadiums. According to the Associated Press, construction workers have had to cope with temperatures as low as -15 deg.

But the FIFA Executive Committee member said there were no plans to drop venues for the World Cup.

“We have passed the point of no return,” Mutko said, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

“The concept of the tournament’s organization has been approved and is not subject to changes. The last chance to introduce chances was in June last year, when FIFA president Sepp Blatter and members of the FIFA Executive Committee were not against the idea of reducing the number of hosting cities.”

Instead, Blatter backed a plan to slash the seating capacity of stadiums in Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg to 35,000. “It helped to considerably cut expenses and to solve the issue,” Mutko added.

Amid Russia’s economic crisis, Mutko last week confirmed that Russia would reduce its investment on the World Cup but it would not change the spend on the necessary venues and infrastructure projects. Whether cuts in capital expenditure are needed will only become clear when Russia emerges from its financial slump.

The 11 cities hosting the 2018 World Cup are: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saransk and Sochi.

The preliminary draw for the World Cup takes place on July 25 in St Petersburg.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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