Lawsuit Alleging Ticketing Irregularities During Confederations Cup Another Black Mark on the World Cup

Arena Pernambuco Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

Arena Pernambuco
Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

If new reports of public discontent and logistical troubles coming out of Brazil are quelling the excitement of the upcoming 2014 World Cup, the most recent news of a lawsuit regarding Confederations Cup ticketing will do little to improve hopes of a seamless tournament.  Brazilian prosecutors from Pernambuco—a state in the Northeastern part of Brazil—brought a lawsuit against FIFA and FIFA’s ticket sales agent, MATCH Services, seeking nearly USD $2 million in damages for alleged ticketing irregularities at Arena Pernambuco during the 2013 Confederations Cup.

The Brazilian prosecutors allege that the seats that fans received were not as good as when they were shown at the time of purchase, and, in some ticket orders, fans were forced to sit on opposite sides of the stadium.  According to one of the prosecutors, “The action is aimed at guaranteeing that consumers receive exactly what they pay for.”  The nearly $2 million in damages, if awarded, would be paid to a local consumer rights group, though fans that complained about the ticketing issues may thereafter seek compensation from FIFA and MATCH Services.

Consumer rights officials have already fined each of FIFA and MATCH Services more than $200,000 for the ticketing problems alleged in the Pernambuco prosecutors’ complaint.

Stadiums that will showcase football’s biggest event in 2014 continue to be the source of concern for local organizers.  From delays in meeting stadium completion deadlines (including stadiums in Natal, Manaus, and Cuiaba), to the challenges of building a stadium in the Amazon rainforest that is capable of hosting World Cup games, to the deaths of stadium workers helping to build and renovate stadiums, the World Cup venues in Brazil have been at the center of global attention for over a year, and for all of the wrong reasons.  Although unrelated to infrastructure and preparing the stadiums for the tournament, the new twist on the subject matter—questionable ticketing practices by FIFA and MATCH Services—further lower expectations of the tournament’s success in Brazil.

The practical consequence of the lawsuit and the underlying fan complaints may already be evident.  In an extensive disclosure statement to applicants seeking World Cup tickets, entitled “Seating information available for 2014 FIFA World Cup,” FIFA states that it will assign seats in one of four categories only after the completion of a ticket purchase, and seat-change requests will not be honored.  Moreover, FIFA will not guarantee that an applicant will be seated next to a specific person, and seats acquired in the same ticket order “may not always be allocated together in the same section or block of seats.”  FIFA notes that an applicant may not cancel their purchase or return the tickets if they are dissatisfied with the location of their seat or if they are not assigned a seat adjacent to specific people.

Putting aside the logistical issues that such rules pose for ticket applicants, it appears at the very least that FIFA’s disclosure of the rules is more fulsome than was provided during the Confederations Cup.  FIFA has already sold almost 1.2 million tickets for the upcoming tournament, and expects to sell almost 3.3 million tickets for the entire tournament.  Tickets will initially sell for between $60 and $220 dollars.

Any event the size of the World Cup will inevitably be subjected to careful public scrutiny and harsh criticism.  Logistically, there is much that can go wrong.  Even when things seem to be going well, critics will point out the areas that have been neglected or that are behind schedule.  The stadium situation for World Cup venues in Brazil, however, leaves much to be desired.  The now-common storyline of a host country trying to complete venues by that tournament date is at the forefront.  FIFA and MATCH Services have compounded the specter of unreliability by utilizing questionable ticketing practices in the dress rehearsal Confederations Cup.  Regardless of whether fans are now better informed when they purchase World Cup tickets, the narrative continues.

At the end of the tournament, FIFA will declare the 2014 World Cup a success, emphasizing the level of competition and the brilliance of the fans.  Although it is unlikely that either characteristic will be disputed, many of the key qualities of the tournament—the completion of new (or renovating old) stadiums and encouraging the prosperity of the areas and people surrounding the stadiums, among others—appear destined to merit only below-average marks.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.