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Last-Minute Score: How To Get A Ticket To The World Cup

July 2006 World Cup News

A Last-Minute Score: How To Get A Ticket To The World Cup

The once-in-a-lifetime event comes at a steep price: An eBay auction is selling tickets for $2,000 each for the final at Berlin's Olympiastadion, while a London Internet ticket broker is offering - for £4,000 (about $7,400) - to hand deliver a ticket for seats that are "right beside FIFA board members," he promises, referring to the soccer world governing body, Federation Internationale de Football Association. Those prices don't include airfare, which, depending on where you're coming from, could add thousands of dollars to the tab for what to some is the priceless joy of being able to boast to friends that they were there. Recently, fares from New York to Berlin ranged from $2,100 to $2,800. Hotels in the German capital are expensive.

Germany and Italy fight for the ball during the World Cup semi-finals.

That game tickets are still available is remarkable given the elaborate security features and controls instituted by the German organizers and FIFA to discourage high-price resales. Organizers held lotteries and issued restrictions on the sale of the three million tickets made available for the 64 games, including today's semifinal between France and Portugal in Munich. Much was made of a requirement that each ticket, embedded with a microchip, be issued in the name of its owner, who has to supply a passport number or other identification. But it turns out the system - which was instituted to improve safety and crack down on scalping - was cumbersome. Stadium workers aren't able to check the identities of the majority of fans who show up at the turnstiles.

That has opened the door for ticket brokers and tour operators, which avoid violating anti-scalping laws by selling tickets as part of hospitality or travel packages. Some brokers also note that German laws don't forbid selling tickets above face value.

Yesterday, fans decked out in white soccer jerseys and carrying German flags crowded onto trains to the industrial city of Dortmund and then the subways to the Westfallenhallen stadium for the pivotal game between Germany and Italy. They sang soccer anthems and chanted "Deutschland" along the way. Ticket sellers moved in among the thick crowds. RazorGator Interactive Group, which operates Los Angeles-based broker RazorGator.com, was selling tickets ranging from about $1,300 to $1,600, including fees, before the match. For a match in June between Portugal and Iran, RazorGator was selling tickets for $450, including fees.

Italy won yesterday's game in overtime, scoring two goals to Germany's zero. With the German loss, brokers expect more finals tickets to come available as disappointed hometeam fans try to sell their seats.

Some buyers are willing to pay steep prices for tickets because legitimate brokers offer peace of mind in comparison to sellers offering tickets on the crowded streets near stadiums.

Amro Kayal, a real-estate developer from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, paid $163,000 for a 10-day package for himself and nine other family members. It included airfare and hotel rooms and tickets to a quarterfinal match between Italy and Ukraine in Hamburg, today's game between France and Portugal in Munich, and Sunday's final. He resorted to a ticket broker because FIFA's rules limited the number of tickets he could buy. "It's an expensive vacation, but you catch World Cup fever," he said.

Other fans are taking their chances and buying tickets through more unorthodox channels. Jorg Schaefers, a high-school teacher in Düsseldorf, arrived at yesterday's game 20 minutes before start time and bought a ticket for £400 (about $512) from "a guy from El Salvador" outside the stadium. "It's one thing watching at home but if you're not here you're missing something," he said, dressed in his white Deutschland jersey, as fans chanted "on to Berlin."

U.S. soccer fans looking for last-minute tickets can find a host of brokers and tour operators selling tickets and travel packages on the Internet. Most reliable may be major national brokers such as TicketCity or RazorGator. Luxury charter travel operator On Point Holdings LLC is offering private-jet charters to the big game. On Web sites such as Soccerblog.com, reports of ticket scams abound, so buyers must beware - especially when it comes to Internet auction sites that can't vouch for sellers. Zach Anderson, vice president of sales for TicketCity.com, of Austin, Texas, says English fans have been the most eager buyers of last-minute tickets, and they'll be missed now that England has been bounced by Portugal.

Even with favorite Brazil booted from the tournament by a loss to France this past weekend, the remaining games are hot sellers. The surprising French team has awakened a flood of interest from nearby France.

TicketCity.com is selling $3,000 tickets to the final game, though these are the cheap seats. And buyers won't know where they are sitting until game day. Better seats alongside the pitch - the equivalent of the 50-yard line at American football games - go for $9,500 and top out at more than $10,000, including a catered party "hospitality package."

RazorGator Chief Executive David Lord says he has sold out of cheaper seats for now and that the best seats are available for about $6,300, including fees. Depending on which teams make it to the final, he expects to land a few more tickets from disappointed fans whose teams are eliminated.

Another Internet broker, TicketLiquidator.com listed what it said were VIP section tickets for $7,250. As with most brokers, buyers have to be sure of their purchases because there are no refunds offered.

Mr. Lord says he has a staff of 20 people in Germany helping to deliver tickets and arrange packages for last-minute buyers. He estimates RazorGator sold more than 20,000 tickets to World Cup games. Like other brokers, he declined to say where RazorGator gets its tickets. For yesterday's Germany-Italy game, a ticket bought from RazorGator bore the words: Oman Football Association.

Mr. Lord says his company strictly follows the FIFA rules, including submitting client names and passport information so tickets are officially transferred beforehand. FIFA representatives didn't return emails seeking comment.

Some soccer fans aren't about to pay the high prices, but are heading to Germany nonetheless. Tom Cunningham of Baltimore flew with his son to Germany and was making plans to watch the game at a public plaza or a bar. His son was among winners of a contest for children soccer players to carry the FIFA flag representing Fair Play on the field in Dortmund during the pregame ceremony yesterday. Mr. Cunningham says he was excited just to be surrounded by the soccer buzz of the Germany host city.

For others who can't afford the prices for the final, on Saturday there's a match for third place in Stuttgart. Tickets for that game are priced below $700 on RazorGator.

--Carrick Mollenkamp contributed to this article.

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The Wall Street Journal
July 4, 2006 by Evan Perez

The 2006 World Cup soccer championship final on Sunday has been officially sold out for months. But diehard fans who want to see the decisive match in person can still pull off an improbable feat, the ticketing equivalent of the legendary "Hand of God" goal - when Argentina's Diego Maradona tipped in a goal with his hand to help win the cup in 1986, then credited it to divine intervention.
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