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Football News - Empty Seats, Peace and Passion


Ticket Fiasco

Empty seats.The thousands of empty seats at stadiums in Korea/Japan despite the high demands for tickets in Japan reached crisis levels in the first week of the tournament. Both the Korean and Japanese World Cup Organizing Committees are considering taking legal action against British based Byrom Consultants for their handling of overseas ticket sales. Of the 700,000 tickets available for sale overseas for games in Japan, over 40% were reserved for national football associations and around 30% for sponsors. It appears it is from these allocations that the unsold tickets originate, as all tickets available to the general public sold out. It is estimated that only between 50-60% of tickets set aside for sponsors and football associations were actually purchased.

The two host nations' organizing committees, FIFA and Byrom have held emergency meetings in an attempt to improve the situation and tickets can now be purchased by phone in Japan (see below) and at stadiums in Korea. KOWOC also switched 70% of online domestic sales from Byrom to local firm, Interpark.

Byrom Consultants, the sole agent for overseas ticket sales with a commission of 9%, has come under increasingly heavy fire in Japan from the government and in newspaper editorials, which have accused the company of mismanagement and worse still, ‘ungentlemanly conduct' and for ‘failing to apologize'. Japanese Education, Science and Technology Minister, Atsuko Toyama wrote to FIFA President Sepp Blatter calling for speedy action:

‘It is most regrettable that there has not been a clear explanation from FIFA concerning the cause of this problem. I fear…suspicions and doubts over the management of the World Cup are taking root among our people, which might eventually cast a shadow over the success of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.'

The loss of revenue from unsold tickets could cost JAWOC in the region of US$16m.

Mexican brothers, Jaime and Enrique Byrom, who founded the company in 1991, blame the mess on co-hosting and the problems of printing tickets in different languages. However, the website set up to handle online sales has frequently crashed under the strain of handling thousands of applications.

The brothers arranged transportation and accommodation for FIFA officials at the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and their company is also involved in the preparations for the 2004 Olympics.

The initial plan to print people's names on tickets and cross check them against ID in an effort to thwart scalpers and touts has collapsed as unworkable and it is the black market which has ultimately profited from the ticketing debacle and indeed helped in distributing tickets to needy fans. One kindly tout actually gave away a ticket to a fan five minutes before the Sweden v Nigeria game in Kobe because he liked the supporter's headgear.

The Russian Football Union distributed 780 complimentary tickets for the team's opening match against Tunisia to local residents in Shimizu, where the team has set up its training camp, and authorities in Korea are considering distributing tickets to schoolchildren in an effort to avoid the embarrassment of swaths of empty seats.

Byrom Accommodation Blues

Byrom Consultants, which handles World Cup accommodation as well as ticketing, has reportedly refused to pay cancellation fees to hotels in Tokyo after the firm cancelled around 70 reservations after the beginning of the World Cup on May 31. In Yokohama between 40-80% of Byrom's reservations were cancelled totaling 25,000 rooms in the run up to the competition.

World Cup's First Hooligan is Japanese

Despite the Japanese media's dire warnings of English hooliganism, a peaceful festive atmosphere and a complete lack of any trouble have marked the tournament so far. The first reported case of public disorder was in Saitama on June 4 when a disgruntled Japanese fan pushed an official through a glass door in a ticket-distribution center after failing to secure a match ticket.

U-Turn Over Maradona

Mayumi Moriyama, Japan's Justice Minister reversed an earlier decision to deny an entry visa to Maradona due to a previous record of drug offences. The former Argentinian great is expected to enter Japan on June 10 and may work as a TV pundit for Mexican television.

French TV Shares Drop

Shares in French TV channel TF1 dropped in value following the national team's poor start to the defence of their World Cup title.
TF1 paid US$166.2 m to secure the broadcasting rights from KirchMedia, but the company share value fell 1.49% following France's draw with Uruguay.

Phone Lines Jammed

Following JAWOC's decision to allow telephone sales of unsold tickets, Japan's largest cellular phone company NTT DoCoMo had to restrict outgoing calls from over 40 million of its users to protect their switchboards because of a huge surge in calls to purchase World Cup tickets – 2 million calls were made in the space of a 1 to 3 minutes when the lines opened.
The 750 tickets for Japan v Russia sold out in 20 minutes and 1,600 Italy v Croatia tickets went in 45 minutes. The 1,950 tickets for Mexico v Ecuador took nearly two hours to sell out.

Hooligan Watch

A 37-year old British man was arrested in Sapporo on June 6 for allegedly swindling ¥1000 (£5.50) from a convenience store by saying he had been given the wrong change. A surveillance camera later revealed the man had pocketed the ¥1000 note and he was apprehended later in his hotel.
A 22-year old German hooligan is awaiting deportation after slipping into the country despite his name appearing on a list of banned individuals. Police later traced the man to his hotel in Shibuya, Tokyo and detained him. A similar case concerning a 34-year old Briton, who had entered Japan despite appearing on a police blacklist, was reported in Sapporo on the eve of England's game against Argentina. The individual is being held pending investigations.
Three English fans were the first to be arrested in Sapporo when they were reported to police for attempting to pass fake US$50 bills in a bar.
Two British men were arrested in Sapporo on suspicion of trying to steal two soccer shirts from a sports bar. Another Briton was arrested after he allegedly punched a Japanese man in the face during a minor argument.
A British ticket tout was arrested in Niigata for selling a US$100 Ireland v Cameroon ticket to a Japanese man for US$160.
Overall 18 English fans have been denied entry to Japan so far.
The Argentina v England match, singled out as potentially the most likely to involve trouble, passed off peacefully both before and after the game as fans from both teams fraternized in local parks pre-match and drank in Sapporo's Susukino entertainment district after England's narrow 1-0 win. Things might have been different had England lost but so far so good.

FIFA Official's Tickets End Up On Black Market

Blatter ally and President-elect of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohammed bin Hammam, has been asked to explain how tickets bearing his name for the Sweden v Argentina match on June 12 ended up in the hands of English supporters. FIFA General Secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen has asked the Qatari official to investigate the matter following a report in the British tabloid ‘The Daily Mail'.

Charges Dropped

All charges relating to an indictment for theft leveled against Senegal midfielder Khalilou Fadiga have been dropped by prosecutors in Daegu, South Korea. Fadiga was accused of stealing a US$230 gold necklace from a store in Daegu.

Saitama Screen Censored

The televised feed on the stadium big screen at the England v Sweden game in Saitama was censored after 15 minutes due to the reaction of the crowd. Keith Cooper, FIFA Communications Director stated: 'It was a responsible attitude in the context of the game.'

USA, Turkey Bonuses

Team USA players are on a US$118,478 bonus if they reach the second round and would receive US$499,022 if they lifted the cup.
Turkey's squad are promised US$75,000 a man for escaping Group C.

Beach Party

The local authorities in Ibaraki Prefecture erected a temporary campsite on the beach for around 50 supporters without accommodation after the Germany v Ireland game in Kashima June 5.

TV Ratings

The France v Senegal opening game of the 2002 World Cup was watched by an estimated worldwide audience of 500 million. 12.6 million viewers tuned in to England v Sweden – a record for a Sunday morning broadcast.

North Koreans Tune In

Recorded highlights of the opening game and 3 other first round matches have been broadcast on North Korean state television. After first threatening to take legal action against the renegade Communist state for illegal transmissions without payment for the TV rights, FIFA has backed down and even welcomed the illicit broadcasts as a symbol of the healing qualities of the world's favourite sport.

Troussier Booked

Philippe Troussier has released his autobiography ‘Passion' in an effort to tell his side of the story and counter criticism of his methods in the Japanese press. The book details his clashes with the JFA and his relationship with the current team. (See World Cup Books for a full selection of titles).


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