World Cup 2018 stadia: Fit for purpose, uncertain future?


The second round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup is almost over and the competition has truly captured the imagination of the Russian public as well as football fans from across the globe. Apart from enjoying the contrasting football styles, the venues hosting the games are also making an impact on spectators and observers of the competition. Spread over 1,800 miles from Kaliningrad on the coast of the Baltic Sea to Ekaterinburg, at the base of the Ural mountains, 12 stadiums across 11 cities in Russia are hosting the 64 matches.

In this article KPMG Football Benchmark reviews Russia’s World Cup stadiums and FIFA’s ticketing policy. 


As with most major sporting events around the world, stadium development plays an important part in any host nation’s planning. This was no exception in Russia, but among the portfolio of venues for the 2018 World Cup, two clearly stand out.

Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow and the Saint-Petersburg Stadium are by far the largest with capacities of 78,011 and 64,468 respectively. These are also the most widely-used, hosting seven games apiece.

The average capacity of all stadiums reviewed is around 46,000. The largest venue at the World Cup is also one of the newest: Luzhniki only reopened this year on the site of the ground originally built in 1956 in Moscow. The stadium hosted the opening game on 14 June and will stage the final on 15 July.

With an initial capacity of just over 100,000, the stadium was the central venue of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. After extensive renovations in the 1990s, it hosted the finals of the 1999 UEFA Cup and 2008 Champions League.

During redevelopment work for the 2018 World Cup, the stands were divided into two tiers and the athletics track removed, with the exterior of the stadium preserved. This summer, it will become the fifth stadium to have hosted the finals of the World Cup, the Champions League as well as featuring as a main stadium of the summer Olympics. The construction costs were reportedly around USD 400 milllion.

The second-largest ground, the Saint-Petersburg Stadium (originally called Krestovsky Stadium), was due to be completed in 2009, but suffered a number of delays, including a redesign to comply with FIFA requirements. After the initial backers, the Russian gas company Gazprom, pulled out of the project, it was taken over by the Saint Petersburg city government, with work finally completed in 2017 in time for the Confederations Cup. Original costs were meant to be around USD 250 million, but recent reports suggest the eventual bill ran was significantly higher than the initial forecast.

Equipped with a sliding pitch and retractable roof, the stadium is one of the most technologically advanced in the world and will continue to be the home of Zenit St Petersburg after the World Cup.

Apart from the two large-scale stadiums, Russia has eight venues in the 40,000 capacity range. Remarkably, of the eight, five were built specifically for the World Cup: Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, Samara, Volgograd and Rostov-on-Don.

The USD 290 million arena in Nizhny Novgorod will be used by FC Olimpiyets Nizhny Novgorod after the World Cup, a second-tier club recently formed out of the dissolved FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod.

Saransk (population less than 300,000) is the smallest of the World Cup host cities and was a surprising choice of venue for many Russians. Saransk’s USD 300 million stadium will host FC Mordovia Saransk after removing the upper tier and scaled-back to a capacity of around 28,000.

Samara’s stadium, a USD 320 million project, will become the new home of Krylia Sovetov after the World Cup. Another purpose-built stadium for the World Cup, the Volgograd Arena, has been constructed on the site of the demolished 1958 Central Stadium. After the tournament it will be reduced to 35,000 seats and host Rotor Volgograd

Rostov-on-Don’s arena is another brand new facility and one that – like several of its peers – suffered a false start. The initial plan was a unique teardrop-shaped venue but was eventually changed into a more conservative design with a price tag of USD 330 million. 

The three remaining venues in this category were constructed prior to the World Cup, two of them for the purpose of other sporting events: Sochi (2014 Winter Olympics, USD 519 million) and Kazan (2015 World Aquatics Championships, USD 440 million) and the third, Spartak Moscow’s ground (USD 440 million), was opened in 2014.

The two smallest venues Ekaterinburg (33,061, USD 215 million) and Kaliningrad (33,973, USD 300 million) also experienced some challenges. After being nominated as a host city, Ekaterinburg was faced with the challenge of meeting FIFA's capacity requirements. The solution to the problem was temporary extra seating on the outside of the stadium, behind both goals, incorporated into the 1956 facade. The temporary stands will be taken down and the capacity reduced to a more manageable 23,000 – which seems more than ideal for FC Ural, who will play at the stadium after the World Cup.

The newly-built Kaliningrad Stadium was first conceived as a 45,000-seater stadium with a retractable roof. The capacity will be cut to around 25,000 after the World Cup and local team Baltika Kaliningrad will play here. 

Ticketing policy

With the continued global appeal of football, perhaps it is no surprise that the 2018 World Cup has become the most expensive football tournament in history.

In 2014, FIFA reported unprecedented demand for World Cup tickets in the lead-up to the Brazil-hosted World Cup. There were 11 million requests for tickets, against 3.1 million available.

For 2018, FIFA had four ticket categories. Category one is the highest-priced segment and located in prime areas within each stadium. Categories two and three are lower-priced sectors within the venues. Category four is the most affordable and reserved exclusively for residents of the host nation. For the purpose of this article, this category is excluded as these tickets are not available to the broader audience.

The 2018 World Cup saw ticket prices surge by 11% on average compared to 2014. Prices range from USD 105 for a group match (Category 3) to USD 1,100 for the final in Moscow (Category 1), the first time the USD 1,000 mark has been passed for the competition.

Category one prices increased by 13%, category two 14% and the prices for the lower tier segment were up by 6%. Tickets for group matches even recorded an average increase of 20%.

The KPMG Sports Practice has extensive expertise in advising on the development and operational issues of stadia and can support the evaluation of the risk and return of capital investment projects, such as stadium and training complexes, and the integration of residential or commercial real estate into the development concept.

In order to review the key phases and milestones in the planning, feasibility assessment, designing, construction and operation of a new stadium, please download our report A Blueprint for a successful stadium development.