Draw set to trigger ticket frenzy as fans search for seat in sun

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The Independent Football

Computer meltdown due to ticket demand is a biennial feature of major football tournaments. This year's crash is expected at midday on 9 December. That is when Euro 2004's last round of first-come, first-served sales starts on the internet. Applications can be made then at www.euro2004.com. No more tickets will be sold before then.

Whether any seats for any of England's games will still be available via general sale - as opposed to via the competing nations' Football Associations - will become clearer after tomorrow's group draw.

As of last night, 17 of the tournament's 31 matches were already complete sell-outs, including the opening game on 12 June, one of the semi-finals, two of the quarter-finals and the final. All "general" tickets for Portugal's games are sold out, as are all the games at Boavista's Estadio do Bessa in Porto and all the games in Coimbra.

That still leaves 14 matches with some public availability, albeit most of them at the higher end of the price scale. Group games cost between £24 and £80 while the quarter-finals cost between £28 and £95.

If England are not drawn in the same group as Portugal, there will be a 50-50 chance that a few tickets will still be available via general sale for a few minutes after midday on 9 December. Beyond that, the only legitimate way for an England supporter to secure seats is to be a registered member of "englandfans", the official Football Association fan club.

The two FAs competing in each match will each receive 19.5 per cent of the stadium's capacity, which will be around 6,000 tickets per game. Englandfans already has more than 17,000 members and priority is likely to be given to supporters who have travelled to games.

One other way to get tickets - but it would be sneaky, logistically, difficult and expensive - is to apply for a "Follow Your Team" package for England's opponents after the draw. These packages allow fans to follow one team through the group stages or beyond.

England's "Follow Your Team" allocation is long gone, but many packages are still left for other nations. Once the drawn is known, it would be possible to apply for seats for England's opponents' matches.

The obvious drawbacks are that you would need an address in that team's country, you may end up with spare tickets you do not want, and there is no guarantee of success anyway.

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