World Cup 2014: Fifa and local organisers under pressure over ‘World Cup of empty seats’

TV viewers spot hundreds if not thousands of unfilled places at event’s opening matches

Rio de Janeiro

The last time the World Cup came to Brazil in 1950, some 200,000 people are estimated to have piled in to the Estadio Maracana, to see the hosts shocked by rivals Uruguay.

Sixty-four years on, this World Cup is becoming known for its empty seats rather than teeming crowds.

Fifa and the local tournament organisers were last night under growing pressure to explain why almost all the early matches – bar the opener between Brazil and Croatia –  have been played in partially unfilled stadiums, even when the games were meant to have been sold out.

A World Cup in football-mad Brazil was meant to be the Copa das Copas – the Cup of Cups. But Brazil’s appetite for this eye-wateringly expensive tournament appears lukewarm.

On Sunday afternoon, Switzerland played Ecuador in Brasilia, in the 72,500 capacity Arena Brasilia which appeared, at best, two-thirds full. While reports indicated that many fans were still outside waiting in security lines as the match kicked off, the ground didn’t appear to be substantially more full by the second half. Fifa gave the official attendance as 68,351.

 

Television viewers also spotted hundreds if not thousands of empty seats at two of the most glamorous ties of the opening weekend – Spain vs the Netherlands on Friday and England against Italy on Saturday.

On Sunday night, World Cup football returned to the Maracana, arguably the most illustrious football stadium in the world, for Argentina against Bosnia Herzegovina. But with hours to go before kick-off tickets priced around £80 were still available to purchase online.

With Brazil having spent nearly £7bn of public money on the tournament, a large percentage of tickets are made available for the exclusive purchase of the home nation, which means the ticket sales website is divided in to two streams. On the page for non- Brazilians, only a few matches still have large availability, such as Russia vs South Korea in Cuiaba on Tuesday.

But the Brazilian section told a different story. Much has been made of Brazil’s extravagant spending on the tournament while so many of its people live in conditions of appalling poverty. As such, it may not be surprising that £110 tickets for Bosnia Herzegovina vs Iran in Salvador next week remain largely unsold.

In response to the growing empty-seat clamour, a Fifa spokesman claimed that a total of 2.9 million tournament tickets had been allocated, with only 9,327 remaining.

However, an “allocated” seat is not necessarily a sold seat. Large numbers of tickets distributed to national Football Associations often go unsold and return to the general pot. England quickly sold all 2,500 of its official allocation for the game in Manaus on Saturday night. Italy were reported to have sold only 200 of their’s, and returned the rest. 

Manaus itself, a difficult- to-reach city with not much in the way of footballing culture, will also host matches between the USA and Portugal, Cameroon and Croatia, and Honduras vs Switzerland. What use the city will have for its £175m stadium, after it has finished hosting its four World Cup matches is also uncertain.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project