More cheap World Cup tickets for South Africans

More cheap World Cup tickets for South Africans

Published Feb. 25, 2010 3:51 p.m. ET

World Cup organizers are more than doubling the number of tickets priced for working-class South Africans, amid indications wealthy foreigners aren't snapping up seats.

Only 11 percent of tickets had been set aside for citizens of the host country at about $20 each, far less than the price of other tickets. That number has increased to 29 percent, said Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the South African organizing committee.

``You have to take into account that (soccer) fans in South Africa are working-class people of low income,'' Jordaan said.

Labor unions and the media pressed Jordaan to make more low-cost tickets available. Half of South Africans live in poverty, and at least a quarter of the nation's work force is unemployed.


Other steps taken to make soccer's premier event accessible to those hosting it include distributing 120,000 free tickets through sponsors like Coca-Cola, and giving more free tickets to the men and women who built the stadiums.

``We have made this commitment that the tournament will be affordable,'' Jordaan said.

The CEO added he would not be able to determine until all the tickets had been sold what effect the larger percentage of inexpensive tickets would have on his bottom line.

``We are comfortable we have enough money, more than enough, to deliver,'' he said.

FIFA acknowledged this month that only half of the VIP tickets for spots in luxury booths had been sold, which organizers blamed on the global recession.

FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke, who joined Jordaan on Thursday following an organizing committee board meeting, said 2.24 million of 2.9 million total tickets had been sold.

Officials said other matters discussed at the board meeting included concerns about the readiness of some stadiums. Drainage problems were discovered at the stadium in Nelspruit, in eastern South Africa, and a special committee has been formed to monitor the playing surface in all 10 facilities.

Valcke said that while work remained outside the main Johannesburg stadium, where parking lots and access roads are not complete, the field itself is impressive.

``There could be a game tomorrow morning,'' Valcke said of Soccer City, which will host the opening match and final. ``From the inside, this stadium looks beautiful.''

South Africa has faced persistent questions about whether a developing country can pull off a World Cup, and officials have just as persistently insisted they would be ready for the June 11 opener.

``The work goes on,'' Jordaan said, ``and the next two weeks are quite critical.''