How an 8,000-seat allocation for Sweden works for 20,000 Swedes

It seems that getting tickets for international matches is almost impossible. Yet, I have managed to attend so many matches in so many different countries that I thought a few tips on buying tickets would help other football fans who might want to experience their first match at an international tournament.

Firstly, you should know that tickets at the stadium are allocated roughly in the following proportion – 50 per cent for the local population, 25 per cent for sponsors, media, VIPs, UEFA/FIFA officials, etc, and only 12.5 per cent each for the teams actually playing.

It seems terribly unfair that the fans of the two teams only get a combined total of 25 per cent of the seats, and it can really affect the atmosphere.

So there is always a lot of criticism of the allocations, and resentment of the corporate sponsors who give away their tickets in competitions or invite people they want to entertain through corporate hospitality.

But money talks, and FIFA’s main sponsors pay over US$40mn per year to be official sponsors. In return, they get one in six of the tickets available at a match in what must be the most expensive seats in the house.

If you are lucky enough to be an important client, supplier or such like to one of the sponsors, or even to win one of their many competitions, then there is no problem in getting seats. But you will probably not get to choose which games, teams, cities or dates your match will be on.

Using the current tournament, and Sweden as an example, assuming you are not a resident of Ukraine or Poland, the next best way to get tickets is to apply to the Swedish football association.

Unfortunately, if you are following any of

the major footballing nations, the waiting list is normally several times longer than the 12.5 per cent allocation, and tickets may only be available to fans registered with the Swedish FA and or Swedish nationals.

In real numbers, at the stadium in Kiev, the Swedish allocation was 8,000 seats, and yet there are over 20,000 Swedes in Kiev for the tournament, many of whom still got into the stadium.

For Euro 2012, the best way to get tickets is through the UEFA website. The UEFA sold tickets through a lottery system before the tournament, but it also redistributed unwanted or unsold tickets this way.

The lottery system is always oversubscribed several times over, so you may not get tickets before the tournament. But the clearing system is brilliant, as you can instantly buy tickets as soon as they are returned and become available.

Of course, you never know when or which tickets will be returned, and so you have to check the website every day or more often if you are really keen on a particular ticket, because as soon as tickets come online, they are sold within hours, if not minutes.

Last week, I bought tickets for the Netherlands vs Denmark this way, but I have been flexible over which teams, which seats and which cities I want.

The final, and most common, way to get tickets is from the black market. But of course, there is a stigma attached to the practice, and the UEFA and the FIFA are trying to stamp this out.

However, with 75 per cent of the tickets available only to people who may not even be interested in football, there is bound to be a thriving black market.

Estimating black market prices are more an art than a science, and the biggest factor in the price is whether the person selling is a scalper or a fan with an extra ticket.

Factors that can increase the price are – whether England is playing (big travelling support, high disposable income); whether the host nation is playing (massive interest); if the stadium is small (limited tickets); and how important the game is.

Additionally, if the host country has a very low per capita income (for eg, in Ukraine, it is US$500 a month) a ticket can represent the equivalent of a week’s salary, so local ticket holders are more likely to sell… and that is how an 8,000 seat allocation for Sweden turned into 20,000 Swedes in the Kiev Olympic Stadium.

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