Worrying news from Brazil, where the first matches to be played in a renovated World Cup stadium were a failure with the paying public.
Only 33,000 fans turned out to see the double header that opened the Castelão stadium in Fortaleza. The city’s two biggest teams, Fortaleza and Ceara, played games one after another on Sunday but still only half the capacity of 64,000 people turned up.
Why were fans reluctant to see such a big event live? Could be high prices. Could be that the games are on TV. Could be that they are treated like cattle by police and security. Could be that public transport to the game is atrocious and parking is absurdly expensive.
I wrote about those issues in this Reuters piece last week and the broader fear that real fans will be priced out of the new grounds.
The story started:
(Reuters) – Upgrades to Brazil’s crumbling football stadiums ahead of the 2014 World Cup promise a safer, cleaner and altogether more pleasant environment for fans but the luxurious new grounds come at a price – quite literally.
Brazilian fans are already complaining about high ticket costs and a debate has begun over whether some supporters will be priced out of venues that boast cinemas, shops, restaurants, and even automatically flushing toilets.
“I fear that the new stadiums being built for the World Cup will make football more elite,” Tostão, a former World Cup winner with Brazil in 1970, said in a recent newspaper column.
“Different priced tickets need to be sold in order to avoid that. Those who want to be waited on can pay for it. More humble fans have a right to pay reasonable prices and get safety and comfort.”
Tostão, once again, got it right.
Brazil has to be very careful here. It doesn’t want to go the way of England, where working class fans have been priced out and football lost it soul.