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   June 13, 2002 | 1630 IST


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FIFA admits mistakes in tickets row

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Mistakes were made all round with World Cup ticket arrangements from setting South Korean prices too high to over-estimating the number of foreign fans who would travel to the first finals in Asia, FIFA said on Thursday.

Seeking to put to rest what has been the biggest off-field controversy of the Cup, FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen took a swipe at Japanese and South Korean politicians for inflaming the ticket issue.

But with the first round ending on Friday, Zen-Ruffinen predicted fan complaints would die out in the second round.

"Ticket problems have now hopefully been resolved," Zen-Ruffinen told a news conference, adding that France in 1998 had not been immune from ticketing problems.

"Every report we have now is that for the next round it is working perfectly," he said.

In the opening days of this year's finals, there was concern that a television backdrop of empty seats would send the wrong signal to advertisers and damage the image of the first World Cup to be co-hosted.

Fans were incensed at failing to get tickets on time that they had paid for and being denied the opportunity to buy tickets when seats were clearly not being filled.

Local organisers attributed many problems to FIFA's British-based ticket agents Byrom while the company said ticket setbacks stemmed from delays in receiving vital information, such as stadium diagrams, from co-hosts Japan and South Korea.

Zen-Ruffinen strongly defended Byrom's performance and said their software ticket arrangements were a model for future cups.

He said FIFA and the co-hosts over-estimated the number of foreign fans who would attend because forecasts were knocked off course by events like September 11's suicide hijack attacks on the U.S. and the global economic slowdown, particularly in Latin American nations like Argentina.

"We had far less foreign fans than expected," Zen-Ruffinen said.


He said FIFA had admitted it made a mistake in agreeing that tickets prices should be the same in Japan and South Korea even though on a wage comparison, tickets were more expensive for South Korean fans.

"The prices in South Korea were probably too high," Zen-Ruffinen said in addressing complaints there were more unsold tickets in South Korea than Japan.

Zen-Ruffinen said that while not wishing to point a finger at anyone in particular, politicians in both co-hosts tried to inflame the ticket problem for their own purposes by "leaking information to the press that did not reflect the reality of the situation".

He said in Japan the interference was mainly on a prefecture level while in South Korea it was "more centralised".

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