Shortage puts touts in control

The draw for the finals is made tomorrow but ticket prices are already soaring.
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The Independent Football

Unauthorised ticket agencies are already advertising tickets for next year's World Cup group matches for up to £2,200 a pair, but the organisers say there are still seats available through official channels for all games.

The chances of securing them may be slim, and the prices high – the average cost per ticket throughout the tournament is £97 – but they are still up for grabs. To stand a chance of obtaining one, you need to apply via the official ticketing website (www.fifa-tickets.com) before 15 January.

Internet traffic to the site is expected to be extremely high this weekend following the draw and server problems are possible. But a spokesman for Fifa's ticket bureau said that everyone applying for seats by 15 January will have an equal chance of success.

The available allocations are certain to be over-subscribed but a ballot on 31 January will decide who is successful. Each household can apply for up to six tickets per game.

In total, some 3m tickets will be sold for the World Cup's 64 matches. Around 1.3m have been reserved for residents of Japan and Korea. Some matches have seen 20 applications per seat and most of the host nations' allocation will be sold by next summer.

Around 200,000 seats will go to Fifa officials and the media and another 620,000 to Fifa's commercial partners and sponsors. Approximately 480,000 tickets will go, via national associations, to the participating nations' fans. This equates to 16 per cent of all tickets, or eight per cent of the capacity of each venue for each match per side. Full details of how to join the official England supporters' club, englandfans, and how to apply for these tickets, will appear in Monday's paper.

Which leaves some 400,000 seats on general open sale internationally. Around half of these have already been sold in earlier sales phases.

The rest, ranging from a few hundred seats to several thousand per match, will be allocated in the January ballot and should be applied for now. Any remaining from February onwards will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Prices range from £40 to £100 for each group match, depending on the quality of the seats. These are split into three categories, with the cheapest seats behind the goals, the medium range in the corners and the most expensive down the sides.

Second-round prices range from £67 to £150 per seat. The quarter-finals will cost from £83 to £200, the semi-finals £117 to £330 and the final £200 to £500. So a full set of tickets through to the final ranges from £600 to £1,500. This, of course, excludes flights, accommodation and travel between venues, which are split between the two countries and spread across various islands within them.

All-in travel packages will be available via the English FA and the FA of Ireland to anyone who buys tickets through them or can prove that they have bought them through official sources. Details have yet to be announced, but a two-week package including flights and hotels but excluding the cost of tickets is likely to be around £2,000. A full month, if England or Ireland go all the way, is likely to cost upwards of £3,000.

Independent travellers will be able to cut their costs but both the host nations, especially Japan, can rapidly get expensive. The cheapest non-direct return flights available this week for next summer to Japan costs £471 plus tax but availability is already short. Expect to pay £600 upwards if booking next year (£1,800 upwards in business class).

Accommodation in hotels is more expensive than the UK and likely to increase the closer the World Cup looms. The real budget-buster could be travel between matches. Japanese trains are the best in the world but priced accordingly.

Less than three hours between Tokyo and Osaka, for example, can cost £150 one-way. South Korea is cheaper but has one venue, on the island of Cheju, accessible only via plane, helicoper or ferry.

However, demand for seats is still high, which has led to an inevitable glut of unofficial agents trying to cash-in on black market tickets.

Enter "World Cup tickets" into any internet search engine to find them. One, a Beverly Hills-based company called RazorGator Inc – which uses the web address www.worldcuptickets.com – has seats priced between £270 and £860 for group games, rising to £3,000 for the final. Another, A1 Tickets, is offering batches of up to 10 tickets per game and pairs for group matches up to £2,200.

There are plenty more agencies, with most hoping to use the secondary market as their suppliers. Fifa will print the name of each purchaser at source on each ticket and insists checks will be made at grounds to ensure black-market tickets are invalid. It has issued such warnings before to little effect, although obvious touting at stadiums is likely to be stamped on.

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