Back on May 7, exactly one month before the Women’s World Cup kicked off in France, FIFA’s official Twitter feed for the tournament made it seem as if tickets for the event were going fast, announcing that “you can still buy tickets for a few matches.”
But FIFA President Gianni Infantino seemed to contradict that tweet last week, announcing that only “20 matches or so” of the 52 matches had sold out. And on Tuesday, after five days of visuals showing chunks of empty seats at nearly every stadium used thus far in the tournament, world soccer’s governing body revised that number down even further, saying in a news release that tickets were no longer available for only 14 remaining matches.
Of the nine World Cup matches played through Monday, only two — the opener between host France and South Korea on Friday and Brazil’s win over Jamaica on Sunday — were played in front of capacity crowds, the Associated Press reported. On Monday in Montpellier, 10,710 came out to see Canada beat Cameroon at Stade de la Mosson, filling less than a third of the stadium’s 32,900-seat capacity. Tuesday’s match between the Netherlands and New Zealand drew only 10,654 spectators, meaning 25,181-seat Stade Océane in Le Havre was less than half full.
As tabulated by the Independent, 165,647 fans attended the first nine matches, or 64 percent of a total capacity of 259,300.
Four years ago, 1,353,506 watched 52 World Cup matches in Canada, which set a record for total attendance but not average attendance (37,320 for the 32 matches at the 1999 World Cup in the United States). FIFA allocated 1.3 million tickets for this year’s tournament, the Independent reported, and in its statement Tuesday said it had sold “over one million” of them.
Many are questioning both FIFA’s earlier announcement about strong ticket sales — which may have discouraged fans from attempting to purchase tickets — along with its limp promotional push of the event. The Telegraph’s Luke Edwards, on hand to cover England’s national team, reported that there was “virtually no obvious sign of promotion of the tournament in Nice,” where the Lionesses opened the tournament with a win over Scotland on Sunday. The match drew 13,188 to 36,178-seat Allianz Riviera, with the stadium’s entire upper tier empty.
Others, like the Telegraph’s Jim White, blamed the promotion along with oppressive security at the stadiums.
“To arrive in Nice is to do well to know there is any tournament going on here,” he wrote Monday. “Along the promenade there are no banners on the palm trees, there is no welcoming signage at the airport, at the station those coming in from Paris are hardly assailed with the news they have alighted in a World Cup host city. Compared to the bombastic commercial takeover that accompanies the men’s edition it is almost as if Fifa are embarrassed to be here. Which is very unlike them. This is the problem the organisers have given themselves. They have scheduled the games in sizeable arenas, endlessly insisted this is the new big time, then, by turning attendance into an obstacle course, hardly encouraged in the numbers.”
It should be noted that the England-Scotland game drew 6.1 million television viewers in the United Kingdom, making it the most-watched women’s soccer match of all time in that country. France’s opener against South Korea also attracted a record number of TV viewers in that country (10.9 million), while TV ratings in the United States for the tournament’s first two days were up 11 percent over the comparable period from 2015, even though the Americans had yet to play.
France’s remaining two group-stage games, the three featuring the United States and the two favorites’ presumptive Paris meeting in the quarterfinals on June 28 comprise six of the 14 sold-out matches, FIFA announced, along with both semifinals and the final July 7 in Lyon. Tickets remain available for all eight matches in the round of 16 along with three of the four quarterfinals. Group-stage tickets can be purchased through FIFA for a little more than $10, while the cheapest knockout-round seats go for about $15.
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