FIFA is now ready to get maximum revenue from the World Cup , mainly through billions of dollars in commercial and television rights.But that doesn’t hide the fact that soccer’s governing body has made basic errors in the ticketing structure for the first African edition of the world’s most watched sporting event.
FIFA Boss Sepp Blatter has supported holding the soccer spectacle in Africa despite negative response from Europe,that said the tournament would be a disaster and that nothing would be ready in time.But Sepp’s belief pays off as 10 stadiums, half of them stunning new venues are ready way ahead of kickoff on June 11.
But still Sepp is being criticised for for his inability to make fundamental calculations.
FIFA’s system of selling most tickets until last week over the internet showed a basic misunderstanding of South Africans fans, who make up the bulk of football supporters in this country. They are poor, they don’t have bank accounts and they do not have access to the internet. Though this was pointed out to FIFA last year, when ticketing started, it only took notice in the last month or so.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke even apologised for the error.
But that was not the only error that ignored African realities. This World Cup has been marketed as not just for South Africa but for the soccer-mad continent as a whole. Yet only a trickle of fans are expected, even from the five other qualifying African teams. Once again the reasons are simple and economic.
Even for the minority of Africans with decent incomes, travelling to South Africa is prohibitively expensive because scheduled flights go mostly via Europe and accommodation costs will be high. Again FIFA only woke up to this recently. It promised to organise direct charters but there is little evidence that this is either happening yet or likely to make a difference.
These miscalculations increased the chances that World Cup crowds would be mostly Europeans or well-heeled local whites with none of the incredible atmosphere that comes from African black fans, dressed in the most exotic of outfits, singing, vibing and playing trumpets in the stands.
The miscalculation became even more damaging when it emerged that high South African prices, a global economic crisis and alarmist foreign reporting about violent crime would cut foreign attendance by half. Chief local organiser Danny Jordaan said last week the likely total was more like 200,000 foreigners than the 450,000 originally estimated.
Valcke has tried to explain this with the argument that Europeans get too much football already and are too blase to attend the World Cup. He and Jordaan have also repeatedly denounced European and particularly British reporters for suggesting fans would be lucky to escape South Africa with their lives–which seems to have been particularly influential in Germany.
Whatever the reason, FIFA was left with 500,000 tickets on its hands two months before the tournament, including many returned from abroad or unsold corporate hospitality packages badly hit by the economic crisis. At which point, organisers launched an appeal to South Africans to buy up the tickets and fill the stadiums.
Fortunately for FIFA they have responded and World Cup fever seems finally to have hit South Africa. But this seems primarily as a result of tickets finally becoming available for over-the counter cash for the first time last week. So many South Africans turned up that computers crashed and fights broke out in the queues, where fans waited for up to 15 hours to get a ticket. More than 100,000 tickets were sold in less than two days and many matches are sold out.
FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke apologized over the system crash, which mirrored similar problems in earlier over-the-counter sales and followed FIFA promises that it wouldn’t happen again.
“Today I would like to sincerely apologize to all the fans that have been affected by the problems in the ticketing sales system,” Valcke said.
FIFA earlier made thousands of tickets available to South African residents for $20 or complimentary to provide an opportunity for more people from the host country to watch games.
Vlassis, who was in line for what he called a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, applied for tickets in an online lottery system at the start of the year. But thousands missed out on those tickets.
Bheki Sibanyoni, 50, who runs a small employment agency, went to Soweto at midnight to line up to buy. But there were already nearly 800 people waiting, so he drove to Sandton, arriving about 1 a.m. to find a few dozen people ahead of him. Earlier, he had tried repeatedly to get tickets online.
“We South Africans, we are not used to buying tickets online. I don’t know what happened. It’s a bit confusing. You only get acknowledgement of your application, but you don’t get any response. You don’t know who to contact. I felt bad about FIFA after that.”