World Cup prices will 'exploit ordinary fans'

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The Independent Football

Ticket prices for the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and Korea were branded "appalling" and "completely out of the reach of the ordinary fan" yesterday after it emerged that an average seat will cost around £97. The average cost at the last World Cup in France in 1998 was £37.

Ticket prices for the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and Korea were branded "appalling" and "completely out of the reach of the ordinary fan" yesterday after it emerged that an average seat will cost around £97. The average cost at the last World Cup in France in 1998 was £37.

While there will be a limited number of £40 category "C" tickets (behind the goals) for group games in Japan and Korea, around half of the tickets for every match will be sold as considerably more expensive category "A" seats. Prices for these will start at £100 in the group stage and rise to £150 in the second round.

In the quarter-finals they will cost £200, in the semi-finals they will be £330 and for the final they will be £500 each. A set of seven tickets for the tournament will cost up to £1,500 while the cheapest tickets for the final alone will be £200.

At France 98, more than half the tickets for the tournament were priced at £25 or less. The cheapest seat for the final was £35 and the most expensive was £295.

"I think the prices are outrageous, they even make the Premier League look like the height of generosity," Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters' Association, said. "If England qualify, travelling to Japan and paying high prices for things like hotels will be bad enough. These ticket prices on top will mean the event will be completely out of the price range of ordinary fans.

"What I want to know is whether the Football Association knew about the pricing policy and what input they had. The issue will be on the agenda for our next meeting with them in January."

A spokesman for Fifa, football's world governing body, defended the pricing policy by saying that Japan and Korea are costly places to stage the event.

"The organisers have to make money and that's why prices are so high," the spokesman said. "If you were going to see Pavarotti or Placedo Domingo you'd pay $400 or $500. The World Cup is an exceptional event. If you want to see it, you have to pay for it."

The spokesman added that Fifa does not anticipate being unable to sell the three million tickets available for the 2002 tournament's 64 matches.

"Japan has 130 million people and they have the money to buy the tickets. They're football mad. Japan is the most expensive country in the world and you have to accept that."

Clarke begged to differ. "We think that's appalling. The market might bear the price but it doesn't justify it. This is exploitation of ordinary football fans. The cost of living might be higher but the same is true in Denmark and I saw a First Division game there recently where the best seats were £7. Fifa should not have allowed this to happen. It beggars belief."

Tickets for the 2002 event go on sale from February. Some 50 per-cent of all seats will be sold in the host nations and some 1.5 million internationally. A "requesting period" for international sales will last from 15 February to 30 April. Tickets will be allocated in May. In the case of over-subscription, a ballot will decide who receives tickets.

Fifa's one concession to fans ordering tickets "blind" - qualifying does not finish until next Autumn and supporters could end up paying thousands of pounds only for their side not to make it to the Far East - is that seats for 2002 will be sold on a "Pay if you play" basis.

"You can either buy the traditional way, for a specific match and venue, and you will keep the ticket whoever ends up playing there," Enrique Byrom, a director of the tournament's official ticket bureau, said.

"Or you can buy a 'Team Specific' package. If you're an England fan and you order England tickets, you can say whether you want the group games, or the group games plus tickets for further rounds.

"If England qualify, you know your tickets are guaranteed and you can plan the rest of your holiday. If England do not qualify, you get a full refund of the face value of the tickets, minus only a processing fee for the transaction."

Fans ordering seats on a "Team Specific" basis will face a surcharge of 10 per-cent for their booking, Byrom said, to cover administration costs and wastage.

Byrom added that the sales policy has been designed partly to cut the number of tickets reaching the black market. "If supporters have tickets to the games of their choice, why should anyone want to sell them on?" he said.

Previous tournaments have been marred by ticketing fiascos and black market trade. Thousands of fans arrived at France 98 having bought tickets via unofficial sources only to find the tickets did not exist. In Japan and Korea, it could be the price of official tickets that stops people attending.

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