World Cup Crash

As the demand for World Cup soccer tickets increases as the tournament draws nearer, FIFA was forced to turn people away from its Cape Town sales centre May 28.

The 700 or so fans waiting in line dispersed as world soccer’s governing body revealed the computerised ticket-selling system had crashed.

It must have been particularly galling to have to turn away so many punters as, earlier in the week, the UK press was reporting that 75,000 “category one” tickets still remained unsold.

The Daily Telegraph estimated the number of unsold tickets to be around 160,500. There were originally 2.9 million tickets for the entire tournament, but – by comparing the numbers to the buying trends for previous World Cups – it’s still likely the average attendance will be around 96 percent.

FIFA had been hoping to get nearer to 98 percent, which would be up alongside previous competitions, including the hugely popular and fan-friendly finals in Germany in 2006.

One of the problems is that the “category one” tickets range between $160 and $600, which is beyond the reach of many living in South Africa and the neighbouring countries.

It certainly doesn’t appear as if the region isn’t sufficiently interested in the first World Cup on African soil. Nearly 1 million tickets have been sold in South Africa, although many of them were sold under a host country discount scheme that had a starting price of $20.

The ticket cost and the traveling and hotel expenses may also be proving a little too much for English fans. FIFA’s predictions suggest there will be 380,000 foreign fans and about 20,000 of them will come from England. That’s way down on the 150,000 that went to Germany in 2006, although on a par with the 20,000 who went to Japan and South Korea in 2002.

A little surprising is that the territory that’s bought the second-most tickets behind South Africa is the U.S.

A week before the competition, only about 1,000 tickets were left for the U.S.’s opening fixture against England in Rustenburg June 12.

The least-popular match is the fixture between Greece and South Korea, which is on the same day. More than 6,000 of the Port Elizabeth stadium’s 48,000 seats were unsold at press time.