FIFA Investigates Reason for Empty Seats at Port Elizabeth World Cup Game

FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and South African organizers of the World Cup are investigating transportation plans in Port Elizabeth after thousands of seats were empty at a June 12 soccer game between South Korea and Greece.

“There is an investigation into transport arrangements at the game in Port Elizabeth,” Rich Mkhondo, chief communications officer of the World Cup Organizing Committee, said in an interview from his mobile phone today. FIFA aims to find out “why people who bought tickets didn’t come.”

At least 8,000 of the more than 39,000 seats for which FIFA said it sold tickets were empty, Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper reported today. Companies bought some of the tickets, Mkhondo said. The Nelson Mandela Bay stadium has a capacity to seat about 45,000, according to FIFA.

The World Cup, which began on June 11, is the first to be held in Africa. The government has spent about 43 billion rand ($5.6 billion) on stadiums, transportation and other infrastructure in preparation for the tournament.

The opening game between South African and Mexico in Soweto, Johannesburg was almost full, as was the June 12 game between England and the U.S. in Rustenburg.

Empty Seats

“It’s not nice to see empty seats at World Cup stadiums but you have to look at the bigger picture, the attendance average is pretty high,” Nicolas Maingot, a spokesman for FIFA, told reporters at the Soccer City stadium in Soweto today. “We’re not talking about unsold tickets. We’re looking at sold tickets that weren’t filled.”

The first seven games of the World Cup averaged 91.9 percent of the stadiums’ “gross capacity,” according to FIFA statistics. The Port Elizabeth match, at 74.2 percent, and the match between Algeria and Slovenia, at 73.6 percent, had the lowest attendance figures.

The matches between England and the U.S. in Rustenburg, Argentina versus Nigeria at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, Uruguay against France in Cape Town and Germany versus Australia in Durban had attendances of close to 100 percent.

Rustenburg, with a gross capacity of 38,646, is the smallest stadium while Soccer City, at 88,460, is the biggest.

To contact the reporters on this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net; Dan Baynes in Durban through the Johannesburg newsroom dbaynes@bloomberg.net.

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