Even the Affluent Skipping World Cup

It serves FIFA right, frankly.

Try to force people to pay for expensive packages through tour operators in a crap economy in a country where crime is rampant and this is what happens:

ZURICH (AP) — Only half of the VIP tickets for the World Cup have been sold four months before soccer’s biggest event kicks off in South Africa.

FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke said only 2.1 million tickets have been sold for the tournament, which has a capacity of 2.9 million.

The biggest problem has been with “hospitality” programs, where ticketing agencies make the bulk of their profits by selling spots in luxury booths at significantly higher prices.

Valcke blamed the disappointing performance in the VIP sector on the economic crisis.

Price gouging and security fears over South Africa are also causing many fans to forgo the World Cup.

Last year “was the worst period to sell hospitality programs,” Valcke told reporters at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. “I’m sure that it impacted at least by 50 percent the potential.”

Valcke also said South Africa would not get 450,000 visitors as it had predicted. He said the number could be as low as 350,000, but he didn’t have a precise estimate.

FIFA claims is has worked hard to make the World Cup more accessible.

Valcke said world soccer’s governing body negotiated lower plane tickets with some airlines, bringing the price of a round-trip flight from New York to Johannesburg down to $2,000 during the World Cup from a normal charge of $3,000.

To prevent empty seats stadiums, seats once designated for traveling Europeans, Americans and other soccer supporters are being switched to a lower-price category for South Africans. This will hurt profits but will also help realize FIFA’s goal of ensuring that at least a fifth of spectators at the tournament will be locals.

The lower ticket sales don’t hurt FIFA because the organization reached a deal with marketing firm Match Services AG seven years ago for this World Cup and the next one in Brazil in 2014, Valcke said. South Africa’s organizing committee has broken even.

Still, Valcke acknowledged that things would need to be changed at future World Cups.

One suggestion he said would surely be studied was selling tickets directly to fans, instead of through ticketing agencies. FIFA would then require ticketing booths around the world, Valcke said, which he said would be part of a new “flexible” approach to selling seats.

Valcke promised that the World Cup would be safe at all venues, and although he noted South Africa’s crime problems, he said they couldn’t compare in any way to the breakaway region of Angola where Togo’s team was attacked last month at the African Cup of Nations.

To better ensure the safety of teams, fans and media, FIFA was organizing a meeting next month that brings together the police chiefs and heads of security from all 32 teams playing in South Africa.

Valcke also stressed that the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, slated to host the final, would be completed by March 15.

“It’s not fun not to have your main stadium now,” Valcke said.

Still want to go? Try this.

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!
  • Joseph D’Hippolito

    Such corruption is why I hope FIFA takes a bath in cold red ink with this misadventure in South Africa. If that happens, perhaps a few people will start squealing against the Blatter-Warner-Blazer Axis of Evil. Maybe some fat Swiss bureaucrats actually will see jail time! One can only hope…