World Cup Stampede Starts

By Dan Harrison, The Sidney Morning Herald
Posted June 9, 2006 - 1:58PM

German tourist offices are overwhelmed and Qantas is reporting a massive rise in demand for services between Australia and Germany as soccer fans head overseas for the World Cup, with or without tickets.

Traute Tuckfeld, of the German National Tourism Office in Sydney estimates that between 50 and 60,000 Australians will converge on Germany for the most-watched sporting event on earth.

Ms Tuckfeld, who has been overwhelmed by requests for tourist information since the Socceroos qualified for the tournament, said she had never seen so much interest in Germany in her 18 years in the job.

"Since November... our telephone doesn't stand still... it's amazing," she said.

Travel companies offering package tours to the tournament have also been inundated with interest.

Warren Livingstone of the Sydney-based Fanatics Sports & Party Tours, the official operator of Football Federation Australia travel, said he received 100,000 applications for 7,000 available packages. Most of his guests were leaving Australia today and tomorrow, he said.

Ballarat company Australian Sports Tours, which is taking more than 100 people to Germany on its packages, already has a group in France sightseeing ahead of the Socceroos' match against Japan on Monday.

AST director Sean Lynch said another group would leave Australia tomorrow.

Angela Hatzirodos, the manager of Collingwood's Pie in the Sky travel arm, quickly sold her available packages to about 50 guests, most of whom are leaving the country tonight.

A Qantas spokesperson said demand on the airline's services between Australia and Frankfurt for the World Cup period were up 60% on the same period last year.

And Germany will get a double dose of Aussies, as much of the large UK-based expat community join their countrymen and women on the continent.

Many are embarking on their adventure without tickets. Football Australia's allocation of a few thousand tickets for each Australian match were snapped up in minutes last year, leaving disappointed fans to scour websites or try their luck with scalpers at the grounds.

Sydney carpenter Darren Glover is one such optimist. He emerged empty-handed from the official ballots but has gone to Germany regardless to try his luck.

"A lot of tickets become available obviously the closer it gets. That way, whoever hasn't got a ticket's got a bit more bargaining power. The closer it gets to the start of the match, they're going to be a bit more flexible with price," he says.

But those who try to buy tickets through unofficial channels might receive a rude shock. Tickets have been issued in the name of the original buyer and encoded with their passport information, and FIFA says fans must bring identification to the stadium to gain entry.

Whether it will be practical for security staff to check the identification of thousands of fans as they enter the stadium remains to be seen, but Neil Wallace from Australian supporters group, the Green and Gold Army is advising fans against taking the gamble.

"I think that they will check them. And I don't think that there'll be much chance for scalpers to do their work out the front of the ground. If I was there I'd be extremely wary of buying a ticket from unauthorised outlets. I think FIFA have clamped down and I think Germans being Germans they'll be pretty strict on it," he said.

The internet is another option for those with deep pockets and a willingness to take a gamble with their hard-earned cash.

On auction website ebay, two category three tickets for Australia's clash against Brazil are advertised for $1225, more than seven times their official selling price.

But this is a bargain compared to the prices demanded by foreign ticket brokers, who source hard-to-get tickets from sponsors and other organisations and resell them at a premium.

At Oslo-based, tickets to the same match start at 990 euros each ($1712) and climb to 1390 euros ($2404) for a hospitality package that includes a champagne reception and three-course meal. At US site, only "prestige" packages are offered, at $US1178 ($1586).

Football Australia advises fans against scouting online for tickets, warning they may end up with nothing to show for their money.

"We strongly advise not to use online ticket brokers as we have heard countless stories over the years of fans who purchased tickets only for them not to eventuate," a Football Australia spokesman said.

FIFA says the problem of fraudulent or non-existent tickets being offered over the internet is a growing one, and have set up a website,, to warn fans of the scams.

"We want to show the red card to these fraudulent practices," says Erwin Hetger, federal police president for the German state of Baden-Wurrtemberg.

"If you are desperate to watch the games live, do not go looking for a so-called 'bargain'. Otherwise, instead of enjoying the game, you could be mourning your lost money."

FIFA says World Cup ticket fraud has already cost fans almost 100,000 euros in Germany alone.

But it will take a lot to deter passionate fans like Darren Glover.

"I've got more chance of getting a ticket over there than I have sitting at home and watching it on telly... and the atmosphere over there is going to be great anyway," he says philosophically.

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