The sale of tickets for World Cup 2018 has plummeted with thousands of fans deciding not to run the risk of violence and intimidation in Russia.
Two weeks before the start of the competition, FIFA announced that England, whose fans usually travel to major tournaments in huge numbers, had just 34,000 tickets allocated to their fans after poor sales, compared to 58,690 tickets that were sold for the last World Cup in Brazil four years ago.
Although two million tickets had been sold overall, Russian fans had snapped up nearly half of them with 872,578 tickets allocated.
Whilst FIFA said there was no point comparing ticket sales for different World Cups over the years, they must be regretting their choice of Russia as the hosts when so many fans have clearly been turned of from travelling to the controversial country.
For example, during the last World Cup to be held in Europe when Germany hosted in 2006, England took more than double the number of fans they are taking to Russia. Whilst the cost of travel must also be a factor, England had more fans at the World Cups in South Africa and Brazil too.
Just 1,510 have been bought for the opening game against Tunisia in Volgograd on June 18, whilst a mere 1,872 will be in Nizhny Novgorod for the game against World Cup debutants Panama on June 24.
Only one of England’s group games was oversubscribed, with 2,659 tickets sold through the FA for the match against Belgium in Kaliningrad on June 28, which could be a potential Group G decider.
When looking at the top 10 countries by ticket sales, including England, it makes for quite startling reading and shows how few fans from across Europe will be travelling to Russia; a country known throughout the continent for its unethical foreign policy towards its neighbours.
- Russia (872,578) – hosts
- USA (86,710) – have not qualified
- Brazil (71,787)
- Colombia (64,231)
- Germany (60,457)
- Mexico (58,870)
- Argentina (52,999)
- Peru (42,645)
- China (39,884) – have not qualified
- Australia (36,170)
- England (34,000)
As well as icy diplomatic relations with much of Europe and the west, Russian hooligans’ fearsome reputation has seemingly turned fans off from attending too. Pavel Klymenko, of the anti-discrimination group, Fare Network, said: “What I’m worried about is the average Russian football supporter, average males over 20 have a very short temper and the line between saying **** off and punching in the face is very, very thin. If they feel provoked they can react with something physical. This would also be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the authorities. The rhetoric is ‘come as a guest, behave as a guest’.”
The prospect of having to travel huge distances between games to watch their team has also put many fans off. Russia is the largest country to ever host the World Cup, which has made it a logistical nightmare for many football fans who simply cannot afford the travel costs to move thousands of miles between games in a short space of days.
Whilst the National Cyber Security Centre has advised fans to buy pay-as-you-go phones before travelling to the World Cup because there are fears that the Russian authorities could hack their devices and steal personal data. They have warned visitors that public and hotel wi-fi connections may not be safe and people should carefully consider what information they might be sharing when using them.
So, what should be a festival of football for fans from around the world to come together and enjoy the tournament, instead it will be one where they will be watching their backs, fearful of verbal, physical or cyber-attacks.
Well done FIFA – great choice of host.