The World Cup kicks off in South Africa in less than three months and 650,000 tickets remain unsold. This is the first World Cup in modern history not to sell out.
FIFA made available 2.95 million tickets for the games, meaning 2.3 million tickets have been sold. Of the 650,000 that remain unsold, 330,000 are from the allotment of 570,000 that went to competing nations.
The Daily Mirror reported that England, a popular team with a strong fan base, returned 1,000 of its 29,000 allocated tickets. England failed to sell out even after extending its sales deadline by three months.
Compare these numbers to those of the 2006 World Cup held in Germany. For those games, FIFA had 15 million requests for 3.4 million tickets.
South Africa has spent more than $4.6 billion USD preparing for the games, including building 10 new stadiums. The country had hoped to attract 450,000 fans from around the world, but according to Business Week, only 100,000 international air tickets have been purchased. Now South Africa is expecting 350,000 international fans. The country has also cut its estimates for projected economic growth in half.
Lackluster sales for the first World Cup held in Africa are being blamed on the high cost of flights and accommodation, security fears, and the host country’s lack of infrastructure. Holding the games in South Africa does not give FIFA and fans the luxury of having nearly half of the participating teams being within driving distance of each other, as they were in Germany.
South Africa is often portrayed in the international press as being a violent and unsafe country. Police statistics cite 18,148 murders in the country for the year ending in March 2009, although Business Week reports that this number is lower than the year previous. There is also worry that civil unrest could lead to instability and violence, as communities protest for better access to services like water delivery.
To reassure visitors, hotels are adding security and private firms are contracting themselves out to individuals and groups.
FIFA still hopes to sell more tickets when tour operators begin lowering their prices as the event nears.