Going to the Women’s World Cup? You Might Not Sit With Your Family and Friends
FIFA on Monday released thousands of tickets to this summer’s Women’s World Cup to the fans who ordered them online. But for some, the confirmation that they would be seeing some of the world’s best teams in France next month was accompanied by a disconcerting surprise: the seats they had bought, including some of the most expensive ones for the semifinals and final, are not together.
Some spouses were not placed next to their partners. Parents discovered they would be multiple rows away from their young children. Friends and families who ordered tickets in groups downloaded them to find that they would be scattered in different rows, or even in different sections.
And as the complaints mounted, FIFA initially said there was little it could do about them.
Dear fans. We have noted some of your comments, re: your tickets. When you placed your order, a message indicating not all seats would be located next to each other did appear, before confirmation of your purchase. Unfortunately we will not be able to modify your order.
— FIFA Women’s World Cup 🇫🇷 (@FIFAWWC) May 20, 2019
Dawn Bauman, part of a group of 22 friends and family from Portland, Ore., who will attend several matches, bought four tickets to the final only to learn Sunday that none of them abuts another. “I was shocked,” Ms. Bauman said. “I was thinking, no way. This can’t be right.”
Chris McClung, a Texan who ordered tickets to the semifinals and final for his wife and three young children last year, said he downloaded a patchwork set of seating assignments Monday that would separate his family into three smaller units.
“We’re in a 2-2-1 situation,” Mr. McClung said in a telephone interview, an arrangement that he quickly realized would leave, at minimum, one of his minor children — ages 6, 8 and 10 — sitting alone in a crowded French soccer stadium. He said he was hoping to arrange some sort of accommodation once he arrives for the semifinals in Lyon, but that sitting apart — even separated into two smaller groups — was never part of the plan.
“Part of this,” Mr. McClung said, “is I want to experience it with them.
While Ms. Bauman learned of the situation when she logged on to FIFA’s ticketing website on Sunday, others first learned their tickets were available through a message on FIFA’s official Women’s World Cup Twitter account on Monday morning. Hours later, the account acknowledged the building anger of fans who had discovered, to their dismay, that the tickets they had spent thousands of dollars to buy were not together.
At first, FIFA said that orders would not be modified except for one specific exception: a change could be made for parents whose seats were not next to those of their underage children.
A spokesman for FIFA said he could not immediately comment on the situation. But Monday night the organization posted two new tweets that appeared to minimize the issue, saying it applied to less than one percent of fans who had applied for tickets to the semifinals and final.
“FIFA and the Local Organising Committee are confident the problems will be solved and the fans will be able to enjoy the matches as they envisaged,” FIFA said.
Ticket buyers who called a customer service phone number to seek a resolution were told that their best bet was to arrive at the stadium early on match day and try to swap their tickets with nearby fans. Those who emailed FIFA — including one who said her separated seats were for a knockout round game in Rennes, contrary to FIFA’s contention that the issue was limited to the semifinals or final — received an automated response that suggested the seat assignments had been made by a computer algorithm.
“The contiguity (or nearest seats) is established by default via the server following availability,” the message read.
FIFA’s ticketing website includes a disclaimer that the local organizing committee has appointed a French company, AP2S, as the tournament’s official online ticket seller. AP2S, which is based in the Paris suburb of Malakoff, did not reply to an email with questions about the distribution of World Cup tickets.
With the tournament opener less than three weeks away, though, fans like Ms. Bauman and others said they had little choice but to try to make the best of things. Ms. Bauman already has made a spreadsheet with all the tickets her group has amassed, and on Monday afternoon she was busy trying to pair up friends with friends, and children with their parents, wherever groupings of tickets allowed.
“Then we’ll see who’s brave enough to sit alone and make some new friends,” she joked.
Mr. McClung, too, seemed resigned to sorting out a solution once he and his family arrived in Lyon.
“I assume we’ll be able to finagle something in the stadium where we’re all sitting at least closer together,” he said. “But it still seems silly to have to think about that.
“That’s their job.”