DOHA: Fans have sought 17 million tickets for this year’s World Cup finals in Qatar, FIFA said Tuesday, making it more than five times over-subscribed. Higher prices being demanded for the best tickets ––– which cost up to $1,600 for the final ––– and controversy over Qatar’s bid did not deter followers of the world’s most popular sport. “Fans across the globe have proven their enthusiasm,” FIFA said. Demand was highest from the host country of the November-December event. But FIFA said it had been “inundated” with requests from Argentina, Brazil, England, France, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the United States.
Some 1.8 million tickets were sought just for the final which will be held in the 80,000 seat Lusail stadium on December 18, the world body said. Tickets for the game will cost between 605 riyals ($165) ––– for some Qatari residents ––– and 5,850 riyals ($1,600). The top price is more than 45 percent higher than best places for the 2018 final in Russia, which was won by France.
The cheapest final tickets for international fans are 2,200 riyals ($600), about a third more expensive than last time and some fan groups have complained about the prices. Organisers said about 3.3 million tickets for all games will be available. Qatari residents, including its army of migrant workers, will pay as little as $11 for a ticket to less popular games. FIFA, which hopes to make more than $500 million from tickets, broadcasting rights and other World Cup commercial revenues, said fans who were successful in a computer lottery would be told by March 8.
Qatar braces for visitor deluge: After the 20 days of applications closed Tuesday, FIFA said it will check applications before tickets are allocated in a computer draw. Qatar has been preparing for 11 years for the first World Cup in the Arab world and the first held in the traditional winter months of the top football nations. The date was moved because of the scorching summer temperatures in the Gulf. It has spent billions of dollars on a building blitz including seven new stadiums and refurbishing one, all in a 50 kilometer (30 mile) radius of central Doha. The Lusail stadium is to be inaugurated next month but many surrounding skyscrapers are still engulfed in cranes. Qatar has also faced questions over its rights record ––– especially conditions for migrant workers who built the stadiums ––– and what fans can expect.
Rights groups say hundreds of workers have died in accidents and the heat. A number of national teams staged protests over rights concerns during qualifying matches. Qatar authorities say conditions and labour laws have changed drastically over the past decade and they have been “unfairly” criticised. The tiny state is expecting up to 1.2 million visitors but as it does not have enough hotel rooms, thousands of fans will be housed on cruise ships during the event. “The first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world will be an extraordinary event,” according to Nasser Al Khater, Qatar’s chief organiser who has promised that everything will be ready. FIFA released the figures as Qatar marked a National Sports Day holiday. Former England star David Beckham, now an ambassador for the Qatar organisers, appeared at a women’s football tournament in the Gulf state. No spectators were allowed however.