By DOUG THOMSON
WORLD CUP organisers have defended ticket prices amid claims they have failed to take account of the cost-of-living crisis.
Attendances for the first of three rounds of men’s group ties ranged from 43,199 for hosts England versus Samoa at Newcastle to 4,182 for France against Greece at Doncaster.
The average for the eight ties was 11,915, and the gate for the first of the second phase of matches fell below that, with 10,276 watching Australia face Scotland at Coventry.
Tickets for the tournament, postponed in 2021 because of the knock-on effects of the pandemic, have been on sale since 2020.
And while there are some priced as high as £75, organisers argue the event is affordable, pointing out that every group game has tickets available for £25 for adults, with some £15, and that there was no tie in the first set of fixtures where the cheapest sold out.
They say cutting prices at this stage would be unfair on those who bought tickets in advance.
The debate over prices and attendances is against a backdrop of every tie being shown live by the BBC, and World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton pointed out: “The numbers engaging with the tournament via television have value too.”
The first round of ties drew 3.8m viewers and a peak of 1.8m for England versus Samoa, 22 percent of the audience share.
Dutton, who said the aim is to break even on the tournament, remains optimistic that this year’s tournament will be the best attended ever.
The previous highest total figure was 458,483 for the 2013 event in England, Wales, Ireland and France, an average of 16,374 (in Australia five years ago, it was 382,080, an average of 13,646).
Dutton added: “We’re close to already exceeding the 2013 figure. There are certain milestones along the way, the women’s (football) European Championship, which was around 571,000, is one we’re confident about.”
Should England make the semi-finals, Shaun Wane’s side are likely to play at Arsenal Football Club’s Emirates Stadium on Saturday, November 12.
More than 35,000 tickets for the fixture have already been sold, and tournament revenue director Mick Hogan said: “If England qualify for the quarter-finals and come through that, we’ll see a huge surge in ticket sales again.”
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