World cup: the price penalty

Some 100,000 England fans are expected to make the trip to Germany. But the plane fares and hotel prices are rocketing. Robert Nurden counts the cost
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The Independent Travel

England football fans in Germany for the World Cup this summer face an ever-mounting bill as plane fares and hotel and drink prices go through the roof and touts charging exorbitant rates for black-market tickets look like becoming the only sure way of securing a seat.

Despite the fact that the German authorities have limited corporate ticket allocation in their attempt to create a "people's event", the sheer number of England fans means that the smooth running of the tournament is under threat.

EasyJet said one-way fares to Cologne and Berlin were now £200 over the tournament period compared with a normal rate of £21. Some hotels in the host cities are charging rates similar to those for trade fairs, when prices can rise by as much as 100 per cent. To combat crippling accommodation costs, fans may decide to drive over in mobile homes, fly to each game, camp out, or stay in other countries.

Obtaining tickets, however, remains far more of a problem. As many as 100,000 England supporters are expected to make the trip, but the number of tickets officially available is down to a trickle.

The Football Association - and coach Sven Goran Eriksson - have already asked for a higher ticket allocation but have so far failed to persuade the German authorities. Before being allowed to enter a stadium fans will be subjected to identity checks, but it is thought that illegal traders will find ways round the regulations.

Football need not be the only reason for being in Germany this summer, however. The government has created around the competition hundreds of fan-fest events that go under the collective title of "A time to make friends". While embracing the fussball theme, the festival also offers a range of cultural activities. Across the country - not just in the 12 host cities - there will be street parties, carnival processions, light shows, outdoor theatre, firework displays, open-air concerts, even football art exhibitions.

"Unlike in previous competitions, we are widening the scope of the World Cup so that the matches are not the sole attraction," said Linda Borchert of the German tourist board. "We are staging hundreds of events that promise to produce a wonderful atmosphere."

In Frankfurt, where England play Paraguay on 10 June, a double-sided giant screen floating on the river will enable ticket-less fans to watch every match live. Similar facilities are on offer in Nuremberg and Cologne, the other venues for England's Group B matches.

"People should not reject the idea of travelling to Germany in June just because they don't have a ticket," said Mike Adams, managing director of DERtour, the dedicated German tour operator. "The hype surrounding the competition is working in such a way that thousands of people are looking at the country as a desirable destination in its own right for the first time. It promises to be a great event which will be of interest to all kinds of people, not just fans."

However, despite these undoubted attractions, the main reason for being there is, in the end, football. And fans without seats do have some legal options left. There might be a few returns from the 25,000 already sold via the Englandfans+ membership scheme.

And today is the closing date for applications for the third and final round of ticket sales on the Fifa World Cup website. This works out at about 4,500 tickets a game for applications from all over the world. Ballot winners will be announced early next month. Finally, from 1 February the Fifa website will allow people to buy, sell and exchange tickets online.

Mr Eriksson, speaking recently at the German embassy in London, pointed out that England's three first-round opponents - Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago and Sweden - do not command the same level of support. So tickets will go begging. "I think there will be more people from England than from any other country," he said.

Budget airlines such as easyJet, Ryanair and Germanwings, as well as British Airways, now operate many routes to German cities, but prices are rising as flights rapidly fill up.

For more information, go to fifaworldcup.com, thefa.com, germanyfaces.co.uk

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