THE FIRST tickets for next year's European Championship finals in the Netherlands and Belgium went on sale yesterday, as the organisers announced details of a distribution system which they promised would guarantee greater access for genuine supporters.
Members of the Euro 2000 board are keen to avoid a repeat of the debacle of last year's World Cup, where fans around the globe were angered both by the restricting of the sale of many tickets to the host nation's supporters and by the fact that large numbers of tickets ended up on the black market. There will also be no repeat of last year's system of telephone hotlines, which saw phone lines around the world swamped by a late dash for the last tickets.
While 34 per cent of the 1.23 million tickets will go on sale after the draw for the finals in December - those tickets will be allocated according to which countries have qualified - an initial tranche of 420,000 tickets covering each of the tournament's 31 matches are being made available to supporters throughout Europe. Applications must be submitted by 7 May this year.
To purchase tickets fans must first obtain an application form, by downloading one from the Internet or applying to the organisers in Rotterdam.
Prices range from pounds 20 to pounds 60 for a group game, rising to pounds 45 to pounds 150 for the final. However, organisers stressed that 50 per cent of the tournament's entire allocation would be priced below 110 guilders (pounds 35).
Tickets will be limited to two per person per match and can be paid for in two installments. Supporters will learn in June whether their applications have been successful and a mechanism will be put in place which allows fans unable to attend matches to nominate someone to take their place. Those attending group games will increase their chances of successfully applying for the knock-out phase
Harry Been, the Euro 2000 board secretary, explained that these tickets were aimed primarily at the fans who just wanted to be part of the event and did not necessarily mind who they saw play. He was also keen to point out that, should British teams fail to qualify, it will be virtually impossible to purchase tickets for the finals through official sources.
Although it will not be known until the final draw takes place on 12 December which teams will contest specific fixtures, it is known that Belgium will play their three group games in Brussels, while the Netherlands will play twice in Rotterdam and once in Amsterdam. The tournament begins on 10 June and ends on 2 July.
Those solely interested in following their own country should, however, wait. It will be early in 2000 before tickets for fans of the finalists go on sale. Each country will receive roughly 17 per cent of the venues' capacity - up from the mere eight per cent available at France 98.
In another significant change from past tournaments, there will be no use of authorised tour operators, many of whom stood accused of exploiting fans by charging excessively for package trips linked to tickets for the World Cup in France.
However, even these changes are not expected to wipe out the touts completely. The decision by Uefa, European football's governing body, to allocate 233,000 tickets to sponsors, suppliers and corporate hospitality may yet fuel the black market, as will the fact that five of the eight stadia being used have capacities of only around 30,000.
WAYS TO APPLY FOR EURO 2000 TICKETS
Post: Euro 2000 Foundation, Ticketing Department, PO Box 70028, 3000 LK Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Fax: (00 31) 10 297 4117
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