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FIFA Sponsors to Return World Cup Tickets to Avoid Empty Seats

FIFA Sponsors to Return World Cup Tickets to Avoid Empty Seats
The Mario Filho 'Maracana' stadium in Rio de Janeiro undergoes rehabilitation work ahead of the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014. Photographer: Ari Versiani/AFP via Getty Images

Soccer’s governing body will ask its corporate sponsors to return tickets at the next World Cup in an effort to avoid the criticism it received when the event was staged in South Africa in 2010.

FIFA provides tickets for sport’s most-watched event to official sponsors and broadcasters. At the 2014 tournament, which will be staged in Brazil, organizers will only hand tickets over to partners on the day of the game, FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said.

“A few days before the game itself they will have to indicate to us if they're taking the tickets or not,” Weil said in an interview at the Leaders in Football Conference in London today. “Tickets will only be handed over the day of the game to the commercial partners. We can reallocate some of the tickets which will not be used to either other commercial affiliates or to the public.”

The 2010 World Cup, the first played in South Africa since the competition was established in 1930, brought $3.7 billion in sales for FIFA, with $1.1 billion coming from sponsorship and marketing from partners including Coca-Cola Co. and Adidas AG, and $2.4 billion from television. South Africa hosted 62 World Cup matches, and 97 percent of tickets were sold, generating $300 million. Still, many matches were played in stadiums with empty seats.

“We were surprised about this too,” FIFA’s deputy General Secretary Markus Kattner said after financial results of the World Cup were released last year. “We do not know exactly what the reasons for this are.”

Spare tickets will be given to other partners or sold to fans through sales counters up until the day before the game, Weil said.

FIFA has budgeted for revenue of $3.8 billion from Brazil.

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