Tickets for the biggest games at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will cost hundreds of pounds. Should the tickets be cheaper, or is this simply the price we should pay to watch top-class sport?
For football fans, a World Cup held in Brazil is a tantalising prospect – definitely one for any sporting ‘bucket list’ of things to witness before you die. But ticket prices announced last week serve to highlight that attending in person will be an experience limited to the ultra-dedicated or the very wealthy.
A ticket for the opening match, featuring the hosts, will set you back between US$220 and US$495 (roughly £143 – £322). Semi-final tickets will cost between $275 and $660 (£179 – £430) and tickets for the final will go for between $440 and $990 (£287 – £645).
With ticket prices merely the tip of the iceberg, it’s clear that fans planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip will require a once-in-a-lifetime budget. A quick search reveals that those travelling to the tournament from England will get little change from £1,000 per person for flights and a double room in a 3-star Rio hotel for two weeks will set you back the best part of two grand.
No doubt many wealthy Europeans will pay even more, while those on a stricter budget will flock to cheaper campsites or even sleep on the beach. Perhaps they’ll borrow money from FIFA’s official credit card partner and worry about it later.
Overdoing the criticism
I’ve raised the issue of football ticket prices before and it remains my view that domestic ticket prices in England are all too often set at levels that damage the game and alienate fans of ordinary means.
But I can’t help but think that the fuss over World Cup tickets is a little overdone. After all, what did we expect? This tournament was always going to be out of reach for most European fans. And the high prices for those travelling to Brazil are, in part, subsidising cheaper tickets for locals, who will at least provide a typically Brazilian atmosphere for those of us watching on the telly back home.
Is football unfairly singled out?
The World Cup, like it or not, is part of an international market in top-level entertainment. When the Rolling Stones played Hyde Park recently, punters parted company with several hundred pounds to see them. Those lucky enough to see Andy Murray win Wimbledon paid £130 for the privilege or many multiples more if they bought tickets on the black market. And rugby fans who followed the British and Irish Lions to Australia will have spent a small fortune.
So in the middle of a sporting summer full of captivating tennis, rugby and cricket, isn’t football a bit of an easy target? Should we just accept that top-class sport is extremely popular and priced accordingly?
For those who say no, there’s always the Tour de France – where those who witnessed Chris Froome’s victory on the Champs-Elysees didn’t pay a penny.
Are there any sporting events on your bucket list? How much would you be prepared to pay for the experience?