Anger over World Cup tickets delays

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The Independent Football

South Africa's World Cup ticketing problems continued yesterday when police had to deal with angry supporters frustrated by long waits to purchase seats for this summer's finals. It soured a positive response to the first day of over-the-counter sales as organisers seek to sell half-a-million tickets and stimulate interest within the host nation.

Tickets were available for 64 of the 65 games, including 300 for the final itself and initially they sold quickly and efficiently. Supporters had queued overnight around the country and close to 4,000 were sold in the first hour – the first two to the final going to a trainee priest.

Fifa had agreed that the organisers could make tickets available over the counter after poor take-up in South Africa through online sales. Tickets were priced at £12, far lower then usual for a World Cup finals, but still expensive in a country where the average monthly wage is around £230.

"The last time I waited in a line like this was when I voted for Mandela," said one supporter queuing in Soweto, but elsewhere in the country tempers boiled over after the system struggled to cope with demand. In Pretoria and Sandton, a suburb to the north of Johannesburg, police were called in to restore order with reports that pepper spray was used in Pretoria. There was trouble too in Cape Town. After three and a half hours, only 32 people out of a crowd of close to 1,000 had managed to buy tickets.

"No one's informed us what's going on. No one's directing the public outside. A primary school sports event could be better organised than this," said Theo Spangenberg, who had been waiting for 16 hours. "For a World Cup, an international event of this nature, it's a really, really bad show."

A difficult day for the organisers was compounded when a Fifa medical officer cast serious doubt over the ability of local hospitals to cope with any serious crowd disturbances.

"Hospital disaster plans are actually a disaster," said Professor Efraim Kramer, an adviser to the local organising committee.