World Cup tickets are on sale and competition chief executive Jon Dutton believes the event can provide fans with an ideal way to start planning for a life of normality again.
A pre-sale for priority members is underway, with tickets for all 61 fixtures up for grabs.
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc with people’s calendars and, though the longevity of the pandemic remains uncertain, Dutton believes the competition can give the sport’s fanbase a reason for optimism next year.
“It’s something to look forward to,” Dutton said.
“We have a tournament of 61 games across all three competitions on the BBC, with new nations and a blockbuster game at St James’ Park to start with. That’s a lot to look forward to and it gives people something to start planning for.
“Everything is on sale and it’s a reward for loyalty to the sport and a chance to get tickets at the best prices.”
Dutton and his team have a bold ambition of selling 750,000 tickets for the entire competition.
That remains the goal, with Dutton hoping to have reached 20 per cent of that figure, 150,000 ticket sales, by the end of the year.
“I’ve been working on the project for five and a half years and this is the biggest day in its history,” he said.
“We’ve been bold and brave and we’ve been ambitious. Do we expect interest? Absolutely we do, but the success of this tournament will be to transcend the sport and reach new areas.”
Inevitably, the ongoing pandemic does leave an element of doubt about whether the competition can go ahead next year, yet alone the prospect of having sell-out stadiums.
“The most important thing is that we are realistic and grounded in reality with the challenges we are facing,” insists Dutton.
“There’s a 100 per cent refund policy, so should the tournament not go ahead they get their money back. It’s also why we’re giving the best prices first. We are incredibly mindful of people’s personal finances.”
On the threat of the tournament not being able to take place, Dutton added: “As we speak today we’ve got 13 months until we start the tournament. We are focusing on everything that we can control, including that confidence of going on sale.
“Should things not improve or take a turn for the worse we have options, we can move it back 12 months, playing behind close doors and ultimately the very worst of it would be not going ahead.
“At this point in time, we wouldn’t be going on sale if we weren’t confident of the tournament going ahead.
“We’re being proactive; we could sit here and pretend everything is alright. But that would not be the right approach.
“As an executive team and a board we have significant funding and we have to be careful with the decisions we make, but we have to not be reactive or to panic and we must make the best decisions for the sport.”
Dutton also confirmed that Prince Harry remains a major part of their plans for the event.
“Prince Harry commented on the World Cup in the birthday celebrations and made a commitment that not only will he be present at parts of the tournament but he would work in the interim. We’re hoping to announce more in the coming months.”
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