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April 2005

Kicking Up a Fuss


You know it’s time to worry when your husband sends you an e-mail with the subject FYI. For your information. In other words, please do not feel inclined to offer an opinion—this is for read-only purposes. The subject of the said mail, addressed to a posse of male friends, was how to purchase tickets for next year’s FIFA World Cup™ in Germany. I read on. It quickly became clear that the ticket-ordering process not only left a lot open to chance, but that it could also prove very, very expensive (I think the phrase “are you out of your mind?” may have crossed my lips more than once). And while men, in their football frenzy (“It’s a chance of a lifetime!”), are apparently blind to the flaws of the ticketing system, for me, the whole thing is a big farce. Let’s look at the facts. The tickets are sold by a lottery in five phases—the first of which was from February 1 until March 31. Applicants choose the type of ticket they wish to apply for, and send in their full personal details, including passport number. So far, so good. The problem, however, arises when it comes to deciding what sort of ticket you want. Single tickets are available for specific matches, i.e. Munich on June 14, 2006—a first-round game between two teams in Group H. Which is all very well, apart from the fact that it is not yet clear which teams will even qualify for the competition, let alone which groups they’re in. So, while England, for example, could be playing in Berlin, a hardened supporter could be left at the other end of the country watching Germany versus Botswana, say. And because tickets, which range from € 35 to € 600 for one game, are non-refundable and non-transferable, he’d basically be stuck with it. The other option, however, is to apply for a team-specific ticket (TST). This covers admission to a number of matches, the idea being that you follow your team through the championships. In practice, of course, your team could fail to qualify. And although you then wouldn’t be bound to accept any tickets you’d been offered, you’d still have to pay an unspecified FIFA administration fee for, erm, nothing at all. TSTs range in price from € 149 to € 1,760, depending on how far you wish to follow your team, be it just through the group stage, or right to the final. The second flaw, however, is that even if you apply for the full monty, you’re not guaranteed you’ll get it. And as there is no option of specifying your preferred location, this could see you being forced to fly around Germany to games for which you have been issued tickets, while missing out on matches your team plays in Munich. Of course, there’s also the issue as to what happens if your team fails to make it through the various stages. Suppose you support England, for example. It would be a dream come true to see your boys beat Germany hands down in the final in Berlin. And so you apply for the full TST package—following Blighty all the way. Though stranger things have happened (think of that marvelous game in 2001 where we beat ’em 5:1), past experience has shown that such an occurrence is highly unlikely. Instead of being able to trade in their tickets, however, fans are forced to follow the team that beat theirs, all the way to the end. Talk about adding insult to injury! Not only do your greatest rivals knock you out in the first round, but you then have to adopt the jammy beggars as your new team and pay hundreds for the privilege! As I said, it’s all an expensive gamble—even for those who manage to get their heads round the pages and pages of rules explaining the whole process. I had to read it a good four times and I still have the feeling I’ve missed something obvious. Call me prejudiced, but the majority of soccer fans don’t exactly come across as being the most “on the ball” types in the world. Which begs the questions a) how will they ever manage to figure out the ticket-purchasing process and fill in the application form and b) how can they possibly hope to pay for the whole experience, which, by the time you’ve accounted for flights and hotels, could well run into thousands of euros. And, speaking of money, the only way to pay for any tickets you do get is by Mastercard. So, unless you’ve already got one, this entails yet more form-filling, more revelations of personal details and, yes, more costs. Which all leads me to the conclusion that while the intelligent, wealthy, non-violent types might manage to get themselves a seat in the stadium, those who inevitably look to cause trouble at such events will simply head straight to some public location, like Munich’s Olympic Stadium, which is showing all games on a giant screen, free of charge. Great. Sounds just like the place not to be next summer … Perhaps I’d better try and get a ticket after all. The next lottery starts on May 1. Anyone game? <<<

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