Johannesburg: Tickets for World Cup matches in South Africa are selling at up to 20 times their face value, despite organisers’ promises to make the tournament accessible for all fans.
Some ticket shop websites were selling seats at the Johannesburg final for as much as 4,550 Rand ($535) on Wednesday — a hike of almost two thousand percent over the original 225 Rand fee advertised on the World Cup’s official website.
Prices for games — most of which are already sold out — are expected to rocket as the March 23 final approaches, inspite of warnings from competition organisers that anyone buying tickets from unauthorised dealers could lose their seats.
“People who buy from the scoundrels and the rogues must take their chances,” Clifford Green, the lawyer acting for the World Cup, said.
He said organisers could, in some cases, track tickets that had been sold by unofficial agents, with the buyers likely to find themselves blocked from entering grounds once their tickets were scanned.
But he added that there was little tournament organisers could do to punish unofficial agents who hiked ticket prices, particularly as many operated outside South Africa.
“If we find out that someone is trying to do this (sell on tickets through unofficial agents at inflated prices), we can’t really charge them with anything,” he said.
The World Cup, which starts with a lavish opening ceremony in Cape Town on Saturday, is cricket’s showpiece event with this year’s edition the most lucrative in the sport’s history.
The prize fund of $5 million is five times as big as in 1999, when the tournament was last held, and the winners of the March 23 final will receive $2 million.
When South Africa was chosen as one of three co-hosts for 2003 — along with Zimbabwe and Kenya — organisers dubbed the tournament as the “development” cup.
They promised to plough money into the sport in the underprivileged areas of South Africa, vowing that all South Africans should be able to attend matches, regardless of wealth.
With tickets for the less high-profile games starting from as little as 25 Rand ($2.95) and the most expensive going at only 350 Rand, the “development” dream seemed to be a realistic proposition.
But the decision to allow people to buy six tickets per match in each stadium and six tickets for each team match — which would have cost nearly 80,000 Rand and secured over 800 tickets — meant the system was ripe for abuse by touts.
Cricket fans who queued for days to get their hands on World Cup tickets last year reported seeing some people handing over as much as 70,000 Rand for tickets.
Organisers have allocated 50,000 free tickets to poor South Africans who have a connection to the sport but, for thousands more locals, the tournament will remain well out of reach.
“They should have reserved tickets for South Africans because some of us have not got the money,” said primary school teacher Rebecca Mphela during a Canadian team visit last week.
“The cricket World Cup is being hosted by a ghost people — there is no one representing all South Africans there”.