Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SA2010: Not a Sellout? Too Early to Tell

Not all tickets for South Africa 2010 have been sold. We know this. We knew it weeks ago when Fifa officials conceded something like 800,000 tickets hadn't been moved.

However, the Daily Mirror, one of England's down-market tabloids, wrote a story today raising the alarm that 650,000 (!) tickets remain unsold and breathlessly suggested this could be the first World Cup in history not to be a sellout.

Well, this isn't so much a story as part of a story.

Here's why:

Fifa already has conceded that the tickets it allotted to the other 31 nations in the World Cup have not sold out. The Mirror story has 330,000 of those tickets being returned.

But organizers and Fifa already have a solution in place, too: Selling them at a lower rate to South Africans. As reported a month ago.

South Africa is a significant enough soccer country that Fifa and the organizers probably can fill just about every stadium -- if it prices the tickets low enough. And it may do that, to keep away from this "first non-sold-out World Cup." stats. The Mirror didn't take this into account.

The Mirror story is a little dodgy, too, in that it asserts "Fifa admits ..." when all Fifa has said is that tickets are on sale in South Africa. Nowhere in that story does it "admit" that some of the matches might not be played before full stadiums.

What is true is the contention from the FA in England that the expense of a World Cup at the southern end of Africa has significantly dampened demand. There seems no doubt of that.

But to "discover" that the World Cup won't be a sellout ... is not accurate. Nor is it news.

We won't know until the end of the group stage whether South Africa 2010 doesn't sell out its stadiums. We can't say, right now, that it won't. We don't know that.
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