World Cup ticketing simplified for locals

JOHANNESBURG - World Cup organisers are changing their ticketing procedures to attract more South African fans after serious concern about the lack of domestic enthusiasm for the football spectacular.

Up to now, tickets could only be bought on the internet - unavailable to most poor fans - or by filling in forms at selected banks, provoking criticism that it was too complicated to attract the main body of South African football supporters, many of whom do not have bank accounts.

Local fans are also unaccustomed to booking tickets in advance, usually buying unnumbered seats at the match. Chief organiser Danny Jordaan last week complained about apathy over Africa's biggest ever sporting event, saying it would be the first time in the history of the tournament that the host nation's team would not top the demand for tickets.

Ticket sales were also sluggish among fans from the five other African teams in the finals, Jordaan said, adding that more South Africans had bought seats to watch England than their weak national team, which is widely expected to be knocked out in the first round of the finals.

Jordaan said on Monday organisers would simplify the process from April, allowing fans to buy tickets for cash over the counter in an attempt to boost local sales ahead of the June 11 kick-off of the month-long tournament.

"We are definitely in the process of changing this and as a member of the ticketing committee, I am confident that FIFA will understand our position," he told the government news agency BuaNews after acknowledging that local fans had become frustrated with the current system.

The slow pace of sales contrasts with the demand for the last finals in Germany, where an average of six applications were received for each available ticket.

Even special $20 cheap tickets for South African fans are more than six times the cost of a seat at a local premier league match. There are a total of 3.7-million tickets for the tournament with almost a third taken up by sponsors and FIFA members.