Football: Fans win better deal on tickets

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The Independent Online
AS THE organisers of the Euro 2000 finals yesterday provided details of how they hope to avoid the kind of ticketing fiasco that marred last year's World Cup in France, their plans were given a cautious welcome by the Football Supporters' Association.

Outlining how seats will be sold for the tournament - to be co-hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium between 10 June and 2 July next year - a Euro 2000 spokesman said there will be no preferential treatment for the host countries' fans, that tickets for every game will be freely available across Europe, and that there will be no direct allocation of tickets to profiteering travel agents. "We are absolutely convinced there will be no repeat of the World Cup situation," the spokesman said.

Of the 1.2m tickets available for Euro 2000's 31 matches, 37 per cent will be sold on a Europe-wide basis from the end of March. Fans will be able to apply for up to two tickets per game via application forms which will be available from national football associations and the organisers. Applications for these 37 per cent of tickets will be accepted for around a month and successful buyers will be notified by 25 June. If there are more applicants than tickets, the seats - likely to range from around pounds 20 for the cheapest at group games to around pounds 90 for the best places at the final - will be allocated by drawing lots. The organisers expect demand to be high, especially among fans of the Netherlands and Belgium, the only teams whose first-round fixtures have been confirmed. As hosts they have both already qualified.

A further 32 per cent of tickets (twice the figure allocated for the World Cup) will be divided between fans of the two nations competing in each game. These will be distributed via national associations after the draw for the finals in December. Nineteen per cent of tickets will go to corporate sponsors and the hospitality market, eight per cent to the media, and the remainder to the world and European governing bodies, Fifa and Uefa.

"It's very pleasing that tickets will be freely available to fans across Europe and that a third will be given to competing countries," Alison Pilling, the chair of the Football Supporters' Association, said. "But there's still this problem that every ticket going into corporate hands, which will be nearly 20 per cent, doesn't go to a genuine fan."

According to the Euro 2000 organisers, security is a major priority and every ticket will be printed with the name of the buyer to deter black market trading. The only way that third parties will officially be allowed to trade in tickets, a spokesman said, is if a national association sanctions a tour operator to market its allocation of tickets. The onus for fair allocation and affordable prices will still rest with footballing bodies, he added.

For France 98, the organising committee (CFO) reserved around 60 per of tickets for French citizens. Demand by English and Scottish fans outnumbered available tickets by more than 10 to one, and there were complaints that tour operators were profiteering by selling tickets costing as little as pounds 18 as part of pounds 600 one-day packages. When the CFO - facing accusations that its allocation procedures were illegal under European competition law - opened its infamous ticket hotline, overseas callers chances of getting through were estimated at two million to one. Problems peaked at the tournament itself, when tens of thousands of fans found they had been victims of `phantom ticket' sellers, where no seats were forthcoming despite having been paid for in advance.

The Euro 2000 organisers' plans were drawn up specifically to avoid such problems. The CFO may yet face a multi-million pound fine for its arrangements and will meet with European Community officials in Brussels tomorrow to argue why it should not be penalised.