Football: Fifa firm on World Cup tickets

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FIFA, world football's ruling body, is standing by its controversial ticket policy for the World Cup finals which has left England fans scrambling over a few thousand tickets.

Fifa announced that England would be receiving 9,128 tickets for their three group matches. The Football Association has resolved to fight for more, but Fifa is refusing to shift its position, claiming that it announced two years ago how it would distribute the tickets and that the system is the same used for Italia '90 and USA '94.

"It is highly unlikely that the English FA, or any other national associations, will get a dramatic increase in their allocation," a Fifa spokesman said. "The ticketing system was set up two years ago and everyone knew about it and what the distributions would be then. This ticket policy is not really different from the policy at past World Cups. The differences are that the stadiums were larger in the United States, while America was also further away than France."

The spokesman said that the French public were sold the majority of tickets in advance to ensure the financial viability of the tournament. "You can't sell tickets in advance to other countries if they don't know whether they will qualify," he said. "The French public have as much right to attend games as the English public did in Euro 96."

The European Commission has threatened to take action against the World Cup organisers for retaining such a large portion of tickets for the French public on the basis that they have broken European law on free trade. A large fine is the most likely outcome, although the ticketing system could be scrapped.

However, the Fifa spokes-man said: "You can't scrap an entire ticketing system four months before a World Cup. We understand that the French organising committee were in contact with the European Union two years ago when the ticketing system was set up and that this was approved by the EU."

England fans are set to receive more tickets from a reserve batch, but Fifa admits the total will be in the hundreds rather than the thousands.