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.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
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

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'