JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Empty seats at World Cup matches have been left vacant by ticket-holders who have not turned up for games, not because they have remained unsold, FIFA said on Tuesday.
World soccer’s governing body, responding to criticism of the empty seats at many early games, added average attendance was above Germany four years ago and was the second highest behind the World Cup in the United States in 1994.
There were empty rows of seats in sections reserved for corporate fans at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg for Monday’s Group E opener between the Netherlands and Denmark and swathes of empty seats have blighted other matches.
Soccer City has a World Cup capacity of 88,000 with the attendance for Monday’s match given as 83,465.
There were 10,955 empty seats at Saturday’s match between South Korea and Greece at Port Elizabeth and the official attendance at the Algeria-Slovenia match in Polokwane on Sunday was 30,325, out of a capacity of 41,733.
The game between Serbia and Ghana at the 42,858-capacity Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria was 38,833.
FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot told a media briefing: ”We have made some group sales and those group sales are for large organisations and companies. They did sell, but some ticket holders have not come.
”We are not talking about unsold tickets, we are talking about sold tickets which have not been occupied.
After four days of the competition the average attendance stood at 53,019 after 11 games compared to 52,167 at the same stage in Germany in 2006.
Currently South Africa is second behind US ‘94 for average attendances, with the completed 52 games in the United States producing an average attendance of 68,991 -- and a total attendance figure of 3.59 million spectators.
At the completion of the 2006 World Cup, 3.36 million fans watched the 64 games in Germany producing an average crowd of 52,491.
Maingot continued: ”What we have realised in our investigations is that some ticket holders, including international ticket holders have not turned up.
”When you look at the issue of the empty seats, which we clearly recognise, you need to look at the bigger picture.
“The bigger picture is that we have now the second highest attendance after the USA in 1994.”