2012: the year when England's support decided to stay at home
Thursday 31 May 2012
England will play their Euro 2012 games in front of only a few thousand of their fans, with the Football Association having sold only 3,000 tickets for each of their group games.
The FA received allocations of roughly 7,500 tickets for their games against France and Ukraine in Donetsk, and 9,000 for the Sweden match in Kiev. These tickets were offered to the official membership group of 28,000 England fans, and after 5,000 individual applications only 3,000 were sold this way to supporters. The remaining tickets were returned to Uefa's general sale.
That figure will not be the full extent of England's support at the European Championship, but it does point to a noticeably low demand for tickets. While the FA does hope that as many as another 10,000 England fans travel independently and buy their own tickets, recent official figures anticipate only another 2,000 England fans at the France and Ukraine games and another 3,000 against Sweden.
"It's partly the economic background, as a lot of people are feeling the pinch," explained Kevin Miles, the international director of the Football Supporters' Federation. "Then you've got the fact that although it is a European Championship, there is the cost of some of the flights – it's not like nipping to Portugal or Holland and Belgium where recent tournaments have been."
The challenges of playing all three group games in Ukraine are also relevant. "It is a country with huge distances," Miles said, "and with pretty basic infrastructure, which makes getting around very difficult.
"There are other things you can do with the money," Miles continued. "Donetsk is not the Algarve. Whereas in Portugal in 2004 you could take the family on a package holiday, and nip to Lisbon for a match on the train, there are not many families who are going to thank you for a fortnight in Donetsk."
The FA, anticipating these concerns, is not surprised or disappointed. But the result is that England fans, usually a dominant presence at any international tournament, will be outnumbered. The England games, like the other group games in Ukraine as well as those in Wroclaw in Poland, have not yet sold out. Uefa insisted yesterday that it was confident all the stadiums would be full, and that there were only a few tickets left to be sold.
There has been strong interest, ever since the first round of sales in March 2011, from Ukraine and Poland and a heavy local presence is likely at each of England's group games. There are thought to be more Ukrainian and Russian fans attending England's group games than English fans themselves. This will be even more apparent when England play the joint-hosts in Kiev.
England's fans will likely be outnumbered by those from Sweden for the game in Kiev on 15 June. Official estimates predict as many as 19,000 Swedes in the Olympic Stadium, with the Swedish association having sold closer to 8,000 of their official allocation.
Sweden, unlike England, are one of a number of countries with a camp for their fans to stay in. There will be one in Kiev, where they are playing all of their games. Not run by the Swedish association, but by Camp Sweden, the campsite is within two miles of the centre of Kiev, and provides facilities for up to 10,000 Swedish fans to stay.
This is not the only such venture. The Danish association has built a fan camp in Lviv, where they play Portugal and Germany. The site will provide transport to the games at a relatively low price. They are expecting over 3,000 fans for their two games there.
The Netherlands will have a similar set-up. They will play all their games in Kharkiv, and have sold between 4,000 and 6,000 tickets for each one, and are expecting nearly twice as many fans in total. There will be a Dutch fan camp in Kharkiv, run by Oranje Camping, who have been working closely with the Dutch association.
The FA has no equivalent facility in Ukraine. Miles said that it was an issue of culture. "The Swedes and Dutch have a campsite everywhere they go, they always set up camps. English fans just don't camp in the same way."
Travel plans: Rival nations' ticket sales
Denmark 2,500 tickets sold for game with Netherlands in Kharkiv, with 3,000-3,500 for the Portugal and Germany games in Lviv.
Netherlands Between 4,000 and 6,000 sold officially for the three group games against Denmark, Germany and Portugal in Kharkiv, with between 8,000 and 10,000 expected to travel in total.
Portugal 3,800 expected for the game against Germany in Lviv, with 3,000 for the Denmark match in Lviv and 2,700 for the Netherlands game in Kharkiv.
Republic of Ireland 6,000 Irish fans expected at all three group games, against Croatia, Spain and Italy in Poznan and Gdansk.
England 3,000 tickets sold by the FA to the official supporters group for group games against France, Sweden and Ukraine. Another 2,000 England fans expected for France and Ukraine games in Donetsk and 3,000 for Sweden in Kiev.
France 1,900 tickets sold for England game in Donetsk and 1,800 for Ukraine and Sweden matches in Donetsk and Kiev respectively.
Sweden Close to 8,000 tickets sold for all three group games, all in Kiev, with as many as 19,000 expected for the England match.
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