Sepp Blatter: Brazilians still want the World Cup
SAO PAULO -- Tickets for next year's World Cup will range from $990 to as little as $15 for some Brazilians eligible for discount rates.
The prices were announced Friday by soccer's world governing body, FIFA. The $15 tickets will be available to Brazilian students, Brazilians over 60 and members of some social programs. In 2010, some South Africans could pay as little as $20.
Host nation residents will have access to at least 400,000 discounted tickets from the publicly available total of about 3 million.
"Those prices are extremely competitive," Thierry Weil, FIFA's marketing director, said in explaining the prices. "So you have a huge range, for sure. I hope that FIFA ... has been reasonable when it comes to prices."
FIFA said prices for international fans start at $220 for the opening match in Sao Paulo on June 12. Top category seats will cost $495 for the opener.
At the other 47 group-stage matches, seats costs $90 in the cheapest Category 3 band. Category 1 tickets will cost $175.
For the championship game on July 13 at Rio's Maracana, international fans must pay from $440 to $990, in three category bands.
On average, prices for international fans are about 10 percent more than four years ago in South Africa, meaning these fans may be picking up the bill for discounts to certain Brazilians.
The concessions to Brazilians were stipulated in a so-called World Cup bill approved last year by the Brazilian Congress. Portions of the bill -- parts that grant FIFA certain tax concessions -- have been called unconstitutional and are being appealed to the country's supreme court.
"The ticketing strategy shows important achievements that Brazil has obtained, which were included in the World Cup law," Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes said at the ticket announcement.
Despite the discounts, the prices are out of reach for most people in Brazil, where the average official minimum monthly salary is about $340.
At Maracana stadium, a study shows prices of the least expensive seats at recent matches have typically increased 30 times in the last eight years.
Brazil will spend about $14 billion on next year's World Cup. The price tag was a focus of violent street protests that took place during the Confederation Cup last month, the warm-up for the World Cup.
The protests have continued with complaints about poor schools, hospitals and public services contrasted with the lavish spending on the World Cup -- and an equal amount on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Protests are also expected when Pope arrives Monday for the Catholic church's youth day.
Weil called on Brazilian authorities to have all 12 World Cup stadiums ready by a Dec. 31 deadline set by FIFA. Four of the six stadiums used for the Confederations Cup were late being delivered, causing ticketing confusion with some fans entering with tickets -- only to find no corresponding seats, Weil said.
"We need the stadiums in time for the World Cup to be ready and to be prepared," he said.
He also said ticket pick-up locations had to be better situated, adding that tickets would be available at the airports in all 12 host cities.
Air travel will be the main way to get around the continent-size country. Many of Brazil's airports are outdated -- notably those in Rio and Sao Paulo -- with domestic connections expensive and difficult to make. Hotels will also be pricey, with complaints at the Confederations Cup that few employees speak English.
"For the World Cup, what we need to do is, we need to have ticket centers in the right locations," Weil said.
Tickets for the World Cup will be sold globally from Aug. 20 on fifa.com. The first sales phase ends Oct. 10, and a random draw will allocate seats for oversubscribed matches.
A second sales phase opens Dec. 8, after the 32-team draw is made and the match schedule confirmed.
FIFA said buyers can request a maximum of four seats per match, and for a maximum of seven matches.
FIFA said an additional 450,000 tickets have been reserved for a corporate client program, which FIFA licensed to MATCH Hospitality for $120 million.
The total number of available tickets will not be finalized until the 12 stadiums are completed, FIFA said.