Sparta Report

World Cup Is Beset by Empty Seats

It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out why the World Cup is not doing well in the TV ratings or seating. Two of the biggest countries, the USA and Italy, both failed to qualify for the World Cup this year, so those are two very big markets where fan interest in the tournament is zero. The World Cup is also being hosted in Russia,. which is currently a global bogeyman, and it’s in a time zone that makes it difficult for viewers in North and South America to be able to tune in.

Add all this up and you have a recipe for a World Flop:

You may have noticed something strange during Friday’s World Cup match between Uruguay and Egypt at Ekaterinburg Arena in Russia: swaths of empty seats, helpfully visible to television viewers in bright orange. It must have come as an even bigger surprise to Russian World Cup officials, considering they added temporary seating that jutted outside of the arena in anticipation of big crowds for world soccer’s quadrennial tournament.

FIFA, meanwhile, is baffled. It estimates that there were 6,000 empty seats for the Uruguay-Egypt game.

“We can confirm that 32,278 tickets have been allocated for the match between Egypt and Uruguay in Ekaterinburg,” a FIFA spokesman told the Telegraph’s Ben Rumsby. “The Fifa World Cup stadium capacity is 33,061. The fact that the current attendance doesn’t reflect the amount of allocated tickets can be due to different factors, which Fifa is currently investigating.”

Doing the math, that comes out to about 5,217 no-shows on top of the 783 unsold seats, leaving the stadium at just 82 percent capacity.

Empty seats may be an issue throughout group play: Martyn Ziegler of the London Times reports that tickets are (legally) still available for 16 group games, including England’s opener against Tunisia on Monday.

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