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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2006, 16:58 GMT
World Cup venues 'risky for fans'
Fritz-Walter-Stadion in Kaiserslautern, Germany
The Kaiserslautern stadium: Alleged to be a fire risk
Four of Germany's World Cup football stadiums have serious safety problems, a leading German consumer group says.

Stiftung Warentest heavily criticised the grounds in Berlin, Gelsenkirchen, Leipzig and Kaiserslautern.

It said the eight other stadiums to be used in this summer's tournament had lesser - but nonetheless significant - shortcomings.

The conclusions were dismissed by the head of Germany's World Cup organising committee, Franz Beckenbauer.

Germany is preparing 12 stadiums for the World Cup, which kicks off in June.

Stiftung Warentest, Germany's leading consumer safety group, said the ditch running around the pitch of Berlin's Olympic Stadium would be dangerous in a stampede.

The stadiums in Gelsenkirchen and Leipzig were criticised for a lack of gates which would allow fans to come onto the pitch in an emergency.

The group's report also said there were serious fire risks at the Kaiserslautern stadium.

Apart from the four named as having "grave" safety shortcomings, the consumer group said the eight others had a few shortcomings or clear failings. They are: Hamburg, Hanover, Frankfurt, Dortmund, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Cologne and Munich.

Beckenbauer broadside

Mr Beckenbauer, who both played for and managed the German national team, responded by telling the Bild newspaper: "The Stiftung Warentest might know what it's talking about with face creams, olive oil and vacuum cleaners, so it should stick to them.

Berlin Olympic Stadium
Gelsenkirchen Veltins-Arena
Leipzig Central Stadium
Fritz-Walter Stadium, Kaiserslautern

"Frankly, I've had enough of these know-it-alls who are trying to make themselves important and profit from the World Cup."

Horst Schmidt, the general secretary of the World Cup Organising Committee, also insisted the stadiums were safe.

He said: "The safety of Bundesliga spectators during the regularly scheduled matches is in no way in danger and, consequently, that goes for the World Cup as well."

Nuremberg stadium manager Karlheinz Kubanek said some of shortcomings highlighted in his stadium resulted from recent renovations, and would be fixed before the tournament kicked off.

The World Cup opens on 9 June in Munich, with the final scheduled for 9 July in Berlin.

Germany has invested 1.4bn euros ($1.7bn) in making the 12 stadiums fit for the World Cup, the BBC's Ray Furlong reports from Berlin.

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