Kirton makes defence of ticket sales

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The Independent Online
Glen Kirton, the tournament director of Euro 96, yesterday rebuffed suggestions that stay-away supporters are threatening the success of the Championship.

Old Trafford was well short of its 55,300 capacity on Sunday, with a crowd of 37,300 watching Germany's 2-0 win over the Czech Republic. Just 24,006 fans saw the 1-1 draw between Spain and Bulgaria at Elland Road - a stadium which has a capacity of 39,000.

Kirton still insists that tickets sales have easily outstripped original predictions and that Sunday's attendances in Manchester and Leeds were not unexpected. "We have sold more than 90 per cent of the 1.4m tickets available for the tournament as a whole - 20 per cent more than our original sales projection," he said. "Nine games are sold out and a further four are near sell-outs. We expect that the limited number of tickets still remaining will be snapped up quickly as the tournament progresses and public interest builds.

"We are delighted that the opening match was a sell-out and that the Denmark v Portugal game at Hillsborough attracted nearly 35,000," Kirton added. "Lower attendances for the other two matches played yesterday reflect the fact that neither the Czech Republic or Bulgaria took up their original ticket allocation of 7,000 per group match."

At Old Trafford, a Euro 96 spokesman said: "We suspect that a lot of tickets were bought by corporate hospitality packages, maybe for a run in the tournament. This being the first and weakest game, people wasted their tickets." Just 130,000 tickets are still available for the rest of the tournament.

n A punter stands to win pounds 1m if Italy and Spain make it to the final. The biggest single bet so far taken by Ladbrokes was placed by a customer in London, who bet pounds 50,000 at 20-1.

n ITV's audience for England's opening game against Switzerland on Saturday was 10 million.