In the heart of Marseille, anticipation surges as England’s rugby team gears up to face Fiji in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup. However, there’s a surprising twist to this narrative: as of now, around 4,500 tickets for this colossal showdown are still available. It’s a striking contrast to the scenario unfolding in Paris, where Ireland prepares to battle New Zealand, and France readies for a clash with South Africa; both Parisian quarter-finals are entirely sold out. So, what lies behind this divergence in ticket sales?
The Empty Seats Enigma
The stark reality emerges when we examine the current ticket availability. While England’s confrontation with Fiji presents a significant number of tickets on the market, Wales’s meeting with Argentina in the same stadium doesn’t fare much better. Let’s break it down:
- For England’s match against Fiji, approximately 2,926 tickets remain available through the official France 2023 ticketing website. An additional 1,500 tickets (and counting) can be found through resale channels.
- For Wales’s fixture, 1,400 tickets are up for grabs, along with 800 on resale.
Why is there a stark contrast between these matches and the blockbuster quarter-finals in Paris? Are supporters becoming increasingly reluctant to invest in following Steve Borthwick’s side, or is there more to the story?
A History of Empty Seats
England’s journey in the pool stage of the tournament was plagued by the sight of empty seats. Supporters appeared hesitant to invest in witnessing Borthwick’s squad in action. Could this apprehension be due to previous experiences in France?
Chaos Outside the Stadium
One critical factor is the chaotic scene outside the stadium in Marseille. Hundreds of fans missed the kick-off in the opener due to chaotic and, at times, “dangerous” queues. These scenes prompted apologies from the tournament organizers and World Rugby, casting a shadow on England’s return to the city.
Anecdotally, some supporters shared their dismal experiences in France. From the overcrowding in Marseille to Wales and Australia fans stranded outside the stadium in Lyon, eight miles from the city center, to the unavailability of cold beer – it’s clear that supporters have faced challenges.
A Growing Apathy
Supporter apathy seems to be a growing concern for England. Even in their farewell warm-up game against Fiji, the Rugby Football Union kept the top tier of Twickenham closed, which holds 82,000 spectators. The announced attendance was just under 57,000. However, Bill Sweeney, the RFU’s chief executive, appears to have a different perspective.
A Mismatch in Perception
Bill Sweeney doesn’t seem to recognize the issue. He mentioned that a 55,000-60,000 figure for an emerging nation match was the norm and didn’t expect the 82,000 capacity to be filled against Fiji, Samoa, or Tonga. He attributed the situation to the economic pressures and the rising cost of living.
In his view, there’s no significant problem with ticket sales and hospitality, despite the differences in attendance. Sweeney emphasizes the need to avoid complacency and acknowledges the challenge of increasing ticket prices amid economic pressures.
The Road Ahead
As England faces Fiji in the World Cup quarter-final, it’s not just a match on the line; it’s the challenge of winning back the hearts of their supporters. Understanding the factors affecting ticket sales is the first step in addressing this issue. As we move forward, it’s crucial to balance the economic realities with the passion and enthusiasm that rugby fans bring to the sport. England’s journey in this tournament and beyond will be closely watched, and how they address these challenges will determine their success in filling stadiums and restoring the fervor of their supporters.