Former England captain Michael Vaughan bemoaned the number of empty seats at the World Cup match between India and South Africa at Southampton on Wednesday, adding his voice to criticism of the tournament’s ticketing arrangements. There were several banks of unfilled seats when play started at 10:30 am local time (0930 GMT) with India, one of the best-supported teams in world cricket, in the field. “Such a shame there are so many empty seats,” said Vaughan, commentating for BBC Radio. “They keep saying it’s sold out but where are the tickets?”
The crowd swelled when India captain Virat Kohli, arguably the biggest star in the game, was batting, but there were still noticeable gaps in the stands. Claire Furlong, the International Cricket Council’s general manager of communications, told AFP that the match had drawn a capacity crowd of more than 17,000. Furlong pointed to the long queues for food outlets and other attractions on the concourses behind the stands as one reason why not every seat was taken.
The length of cricket matches mean it is not uncommon for spectators to be out of their seats even when play is in progress. “The match is a 17,200 sell-out. We haven’t had a turnstile count yet but all day there have been a couple of thousand milling around the concourses,” Furlong said. \
“We will conduct an evaluation to see if there are any trends and whether we need to communicate more about start times,” she added.
“We provide a re-sale platform for tickets so that fans who’ve missed out can buy them without being ripped off by secondary re-sale sites.
“But if people who’ve bought tickets don’t turn up, there’s only so much we can do.”
The World Cup is the ICC’s showpiece event and officials have already come under fire during this tournament regarding empty seats during Pakistan’s surprise 14-run victory over hosts England at Trent Bridge on Monday. Some fans vented their anger on social media about what they said was a failure by corporate ticket-holders to take up their places.
The Nottingham ground had already experienced ticketing issues of a different kind when thousands of fans queued for hours to get in to watch last week’s match between Pakistan and the West Indies. A combination of late sales and people needing to collect tickets at Trent Bridge led to “1,600, 1,700 people standing in a queue”, according to tournament director Steve Elworthy. The problem was compounded by the fact Pakistan collapsed to 105 all out.
Many fans missed their innings completely and the situation prompted the ICC to offer full refunds and look again at their ticketing policies.