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FIFA recently announced that over 800,000 tickets for matches at the World Cup in Qatar were sold in the first phase of sales. However, concerns remain over how many fans from participating nations will actually attend.
For fans looking to travel to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, accommodation shortages, transport costs and tickets are looking like major stumbling blocks. Some are also not planning to travel because of ethical reasons.
A FIFA spokesperson told DW that Qatar is "committed to using every available accommodation option in the country to ensure it offers fans a range of unique and innovative options during the tournament. The room inventory consists of traditional 2-to-5-star hotel rooms, temporarily moored cruise ships, known as "floating hotels," serviced apartments and villas, and desert camps."
Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, believes 27,000 more beds are expected to be available, but there is still a long way to go.
"Qatar's Supreme Committee (SC) said there would be up to 6,500 beds in the camps and an additional 2,500 in temporary cabins," Evain told DW.
"But without any clarity of when would that be ready, so there was a strong feeling of we're going to try to do it, but we can't really guarantee it at the moment."
Beyond the concerns of enough space, there is the question of how much accommodation will cost. The SC said earlier this year that prices will start from $80 (€74) a night. Evain believes the cheapest option will be a single bed in a room or a shared room costing $100 a night, with $400 a night the cost of staying on a cruise ship.
The belief is that the majority of hotels and other accommodation options across the country that are currently booked up will become available to ticket holders. Nevertheless, nearly six months out, the situation remains unclear. Indeed, Doha-based news network Al Jazeera reported in mid April that Iran was preparing to host World Cup fans on the island of Kish, a 40-minute flight or six-hour boat ride from Doha.
"There is a systemic problem that tournament organizers generally don't really care enough about traveling fans, or in the case of Qatar, they have an offer that doesn't match the actual profile and budget of the people who are traveling," Evain added.
The organizers, however, paint a different picture.
"The SC’s objective has always been to have fair and reasonable pricing for visiting fans," they said in a statement responding to a DW query. "We have worked closely with key stakeholders to ensure affordable pricing across all types of accommodation."
The FIFA spokesperson also told DW that Qatar has committed to making the tournament as environmentally friendly as possible by "measuring, mitigating and offsetting all GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, and advancing low-carbon solutions in Qatar and the region."
Furthermore, the spokesperson emphasized that the compact nature of the tournament would "eliminate the long-distance travel between host cities typically required for other World Cups and will thus reduce associated carbon emissions."
However, with accommodation options still unclear, Evain said that fan groups still considering traveling to Qatar are seriously considering flying in and out of Europe for every game. This would be devastating for the environment and would add further costs for fans.
"At the time of the bid, Qatar Airways had the commitment, or at least the Qataris, to provide free flights for ticket holders. But a lot of things that were promised in the bid never materialized," Evain said.
As FIFA stated, demand for tickets was high with over 800,000 selling in the first phase but Evain believes this is no indication of how many fans will actually attend.
The fans that do make it to Qatar will be able to watch games in the comfort of air-conditioned stadiums
"There's a difference between purchasing the tickets now for five, six, seven hundred dollars and actually traveling to Qatar... I don't think the ticket sales numbers that we've seen at the moment are necessarily a good indication of how many people will eventually travel to Qatar," Evain said.
"I think at least until the quarterfinals, we'll see small contingents of visiting fans."
The FIFA spokesperson said that for 55 of the 64 matches at the tournament cheaper tickets will be available than for games at the last World Cup in Russia. The spokesperson added that prices as affordable as QAR 40 ($11, €10.17) per ticket for Qatar residents (approx. $10, 53% cheaper than in Russia) and QAR 250 for international fans (approx. $70, 33% cheaper than in Russia) were on offer.
This may be true, but clarity over the type of ticket remains elusive. There are four categories of ticket, with Category 1 the highest priced and Category 4 reserved exclusively for Qatari residents.
"Category 4 is cheaper for the group stage and the round of 16, and it's significantly cheaper, that's true," Evain said.
"The quarterfinals, semifinals, the third-fourth playoff and the final – all of the tickets are higher and some are significantly higher," Evain said. "All in all, it's an increase."
For fans drawing up a pros and cons list about traveling to Qatar for the World Cup, the cons list continues to grow. From ethical concerns, to the cost of accommodation, travel and tickets, there are plenty of reasons to wonder whether this really will be a World Cup with fans from around the world coming together – as the event is always meant to be.
Edited by Chuck Penfold.