FIFA flop for World Cup?

Ticket sales for the 2010 World Cup are not going as hoped, and increasingly international criticism is being expressed about the costs of attending this premier world sporting event, in respect of ticket prices, the costs of flying to and within South Africa, and the accommodation costs.

German soccer hero and ex-trainer, and FIFA Exco Member Franz Beckenbauer has spoken out about the high ticket prices for the 2010 World Cup, reports the Cape Argus.   Beckenbauer says that few soccer fans can afford the high ticket prices, he allegedly told SkyNews. Of the 21 000 tickets available to follow the German team in playing Australia, Serbia and Ghana in Group D, only 6 700 have been sold, he said.   Travel costs are also deemed to be very expensive.

The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk) in the United Kingdom reported this week with a headline “World Cup scramble for Africa fizzles out”, and reflected that fewer German and Dutch tickets have been sold relative to supply.   However, England fans are expected to take up the full allocation of tickets.  To date, 22 479 tickets have been sold to English fans. The article states:”…predictions from the South African organising committee and tourist chiefs that between 40 000 and 50 000 England fans would descend on South Africa as part of a contingent of 450 000 tourists now look over-optimistic. 

Kevin Miles, from the England Football Supporters’ Federation, says it bluntly: “It’s a calculation about the World Cup experience you can get for your restricted funds and a combination of expensive flights, rip-off hotel rates, difficult internal transport, uncertainty about safety and the fact that it is winter.  They all combine to make it a much less attractive proposition”.   The base rate of a tour package from the UK is R 42 000, the Guardian article says.

The Sunday Times yesterday reported that a base package for an England fan flying to and from South Africa, 14 nights accommodation at a 3-star establishment, a ticket for a match each in Rustenburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and travel between soccer match venues will cost R 60 000 as sold by MATCH-accredited tour operators.   A Brazil fan will pay R 90 000 for a return flight, transfers locally, 12 nights’ accommodation and tickets for the first 3 Brazil matches, while a Mexico fan will pay R 105 000 for a 15-day trip, including the return flight, internal transfers, accommodation, and a ticket for the first three Mexico matches.  International soccer fans say that they will not come to South Africa for the World Cup to be ripped off!

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has called on the FIFA Local Organising Committee to lower the price of tickets.   The Local Organising Committee has countered this request by stating that South Africans are eligible to buy special low-price Category 4 tickets, at R 140 each.   In 2006 the cheapest tickets in Germany were priced at about R 600 each.   FIFA set the dollar/Rand exchange rate at R 7, to avoid price fluctuations – the Rand is not trading far from this level at the moment.

The Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, and the FIFA Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan, have cautioned the industry against overpricing.  Yet they have not reprimanded MATCH for its excessive rates for accommodation, transport, and ticket prices, in taking a 30 % commission on top of the already high accommodation costs, as well as commission on all other parts of the packages.  The fact that FIFA CEO Sepp Blatter’s nephew is a shareholder in MATCH clearly compromises them!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

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