FIFA attribute blame for 5000 empty seats

Ian Watson

FIFA has blamed “no-shows” for the embarrassing number of empty seats at Friday’s Group A game between Egypt and Uruguay in Ekaterinburg.

Despite selling more than 32,000 tickets for the 33,000-capacity stadium, more than 5,000 ticket-holders failed to attend, prompting FIFA to open an investigation into what happened.

That work has now been completed, although it does not shed much more light on the situation.

A FIFA spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the matter related to the match in Ekaterinburg was mainly linked to ‘no-shows’ from all constituent groups.

“There were no problems with FIFA’s ticketing operations on-site that would have prevented ticket-holders from attending the match and, as already mentioned, 32,278 tickets had been allocated.”

The reference to “all constituent groups” is interesting as there have been suggestions in Russia that this was a case of too many tickets going to dignitaries and sponsors, and not enough to fans.

Either way, those who failed to come along did not miss a classic. Uruguay’s Jose Gimenez gave the South Americans a win they just about deserved with a header in the 89th minute.

The sight of so many empty seats on only the second day of the tournament did come as a shock, though, particularly after Russia’s rousing 5-0 win in the opening game on Thursday and the positive messages FIFA and the Russian organisers have been pumping out about bumper ticket sales.

The situation at the Ekaterinburg Arena, however, may not be an anomaly, as tickets were still available for all of Saturday’s games, albeit in the most expensive categories.

In fact, tickets are still on sale for England’s openers with Tunisia in Volgograd, priced from £124 to £158.

The next test of Ekaterinburg’s enthusiasm for World Cup football will come on Thursday when France meet Peru, who are one of the best-supported teams at Russia 2018.