A Seat Switcheroo At The World Cup?

Talk about a kick in the head. More than a year ago, Anton Naunheimer of Chicago bought the highest-priced tickets available for the five opening games of World Cup soccer beginning in the Windy City on June 17. Paying $400 for a five-ticket block, he expected a commanding view of the action, somewhere in the heart of Soldier Field. But when his tickets arrived recently, Naunheimer found himself stuck behind the goal line, just down the aisle from the cheap seats--$150 per block. His plight may be shared by thousands of other miffed fans.

The organizers pulled a stadium-seat switcheroo, Naunheimer alleges in a class- action suit seeking unspecified money damages. Although World Cup promoters promised sideline seats to those placing orders for top-dollar tickets a year ago, it has since expanded "premium" sections to include corners and end zones as well, the suit alleges.

Organizers won't comment or say if "premium" sections were redrawn. A spokesman notes that since stadiums differ, it's a judgment call where good seats end. He says the number of complaints has been "very, very small"--representing 0.5% of the 3.5 million tickets sold. But that's 17,500 tickets, which likely represents thousands of buyers.

Naunheimer, an Austrian-born engineer, won't accept the explanation. "Doling out these tickets can't be that difficult. I'm being cheated and defrauded," he says. Naunheimer still plans to attend the games. At least he'll have a commanding view of the corner kicks.

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