The Bill Gallagher Suite at the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg was filled to bursting point yesterday. Over 140 reporters and South Africa-based international news agency correspondents attended a 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ ticketing seminar, incorporating a briefing on all important matters pertaining to ticket sales. The first sales phase commences on Friday 20 February via FIFA.com and at FNB branches across the country.
The media representatives listened attentively to the four high-ranking presenters on the podium, chaired by FIFA Honorary Vice-President David Will, chairman of the ticketing sub-committee. He was flanked by local organising committee (LOC) CEO Dr Danny Jordaan, whose opening remarks were designed to convey conviction and passion from the stage to the auditorium: “There is only one FIFA World Cup,” he said, “and it takes place here in South Africa next year. The game is on for 2010."
Initial spark for South Africa
Indeed, the start of the first phase of ticket sales for the world’s largest single-sport event is a significant milestone on the road to next year’s finals. “We all realise how close we are to this World Cup, and believe me, the remaining time will simply fly by,” commented Will. His words were echoed by FIFA consultant for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Horst R. Schmidt, drawing on his long experience in ticketing as a former head of ticket sales for the 1974 FIFA World Cup Germany, and as LOC vice-president for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. “We too were infected by World Cup fever when we staged a similar seminar in Germany back in 2005,” Schmidt related, recalling a wave of pre-tournament excitement. The first ticket sales phase alone attracted some 20 million applications for a total of three million match tickets. “My hope is that this supplies a similar initial spark here in South Africa."
Jaime Byrom, Executive Co-Chairman of FIFA’s professional services company Match Services AG, presented a detailed and comprehensive overview of the ticketing operation, covering seating capacities, the various product categories, and the five-phase sales programme. “There are only two official sales channels: on the one hand FIFA.com, where tickets can be easily ordered online, and on the other hand, FNB branches, where fans can fill out an application form." The media representatives were introduced step-by-step to each aspect of the ticketing system. The presentation featured an official self-service terminal, for ticket holders to print their own paper tickets next year, and info packs for all those in attendance, including a mock-up of the FNB Visa Official Mascot pre-paid card.
Fair and well-balanced distribution
"We must ensure a fair and well-balanced distribution of these World Cup tickets,” declared Will. “Our goal is to sell every ticket for all 64 matches." Will elaborated on the special ticket category created for the first FIFA World Cup on African soil, to be sold exclusively to those living in South Africa. “The most affordable tickets will cost 140 rand, the lowest price for a World Cup match ticket for many, many years.” This is also the only category in which tickets are priced in the local currency, using a fixed exchange rate of seven to one against the US dollar. “At the present time, these tickets are actually 40 per cent cheaper [based on current exchange rates],” Byrom pointed out.
The question and answer session at the end of the presentation gave some indication of the intense media interest in the category 4 tickets. The lively session, chaired by FIFA Director of Communications Hans Klaus, frequently returned to the question of exactly how these tickets would be allocated.
“This is a unique chance for fans to experience the World Cup in South Africa, their home country,” explained Jordaan. “We have taken extraordinary steps to open up the tournament to all South Africans, especially those on low incomes. We have initiated a ticket fund, and we’ve fixed the exchange rate. Every worker involved in constructing the ten stadiums will be allocated two tickets free of charge, and wheelchair users will be admitted at the price of the cheapest category. We want every South African to have the opportunity of attending a match at a stadium," he added.
Schmidt issued an appeal to the journalists present at the briefing: “We need you to help us explain the ticketing system to the people here in South Africa. You hold the key in your hands."
One reporter asked whether ticket sales might suffer as a result of the global financial crisis. “It could affect ticket sales,” Will acknowledged, “but we don’t know by how much. Football fans are a special breed. If my Scotland team manages to qualify, I can guarantee that Scots in their tens of thousands will find their way here in June 2010, regardless of the cost. There’ll be plenty of fans."