The first report I saw today says Fabio Capello has refused to sign off the Royal Bafokeng option. There are no direct quotes from the man himself, but plenty from organisers and the people responsible for construction at the unfinished site. Suddenly it’s difficult to know who to believe.
Meanwhile, England aren't the only team with concerns about preparations ahead of their arrival in early June. The Argentineans have raised concerns about their University of Pretoria, while hosts South Africa recently switched locations. Today we should find out whether their problems are more widespread or just the result of local delays.
An alternative take on the situation is that Capello is satisfied with progress but will not sign off the deal just yet. He may even have agreed a time delay with FIFA which would see England failing to meet today’s deadline. The UK media is of course being blamed for more hysterical scare stories. However, this report quotes one local source who presumably doesn’t have an axe to grind. Football journalist Ed Aarons sounds credible enough to me.
The Times takes a similar line to The Guardian, suggesting Capello will give the proposed base his “tentative approval” and reiterating the contingency plan option if agreement is not secured by today’s deadline.
And the Independent sees a calculated bluff on England’s part. The FA, it says, has used the visit “to demonstrate why it will not be signing by today's deadline.” It too highlights the flexibility of FIFA’s plans.
Reading between the lines, Capello and the FA want to make the developers sweat but will probably sign on the dotted line soon. It may in fact be too late to find another suitable site anyway.