By Denna Bowman
With less then 10 weeks to go until the World Cup kicks off in South Africa, more than a million tickets are still unsold.
Sponsors have returned 378,000 tickets, added to 650,000 handed back by football associations – meaning almost a third of the 3.7million available seats remain unsold.
Continental tyres, a big-money World Cup partner, said the credit crunch had dented the sponsors’ commitment to the event.
Spokesman Alexander Luhrs said: “The reason is simple, because the associated costs per ticket are much higher than previous events. Businesses have been faced with a difficult trading environment for 18 months, so we downsized our approach.”
The World Cup’s 550,000 sponsors’ tickets are split between Fifa partners Coca Cola, Adidas, Sony, Visa, Emirates and Hyundai; World Cup partners McDonald’s, Budweiser, Castrol, Continental, MTN, Mahindra Satyam and Yingli solar; and South Africa backers Ultimate, FNB, NeoAfrica, Prasa and Telkom.
It is highly unusual for sponsors to hand back tickets since they normally give them away in high-profile competitions, according to an exclusive report in the Daily Mirror.
Fifa controversially awards sponsors 550,106 tickets – but only 172,000 have been taken up or a paltry 31 per cent.
But, due to the economic downturn, many companies – including McDonald’s, Budweiser and Adidas – are unwilling to provide packages, including hotel rooms and accommodation because of sky-high flight and accommodation prices.