Thousands of empty seats have been found in the World Cup stadiums in Qatar after the opening matches. The official figures published by FIFA show stadiums were packed for the first matches of the tournament, but the sight of thousands of empty seats will likely cast a negative light on the host country.
FIFA has been criticized by many for its attendance figures, which have been found to be higher than stadium capacity. The figures published for the Netherlands vs Senegal match were announced as 41,721. But the official attendance figure, which was issued by the Al Thumama Stadium, was much higher than the stadium’s capacity.
FIFA’s announcement of higher attendance than the stadium’s capacity is not the first time that the organization has been caught inflating its figures. In the 1994 World Cup in the United States, the average attendance was the highest of the tournament. The same can be said for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. But FIFA has been inconsistent in its attendance figures, especially in its last six matches. In the first game of the tournament, Qatar lost 2-0 to Ecuador. The official attendance was 67,372. But during the second half of the match, the final attendance was 67,372.
Thousands of fans were found to be leaving the stadium during the half-time break. Several families with young children were also found to be leaving the stadium. The organizers have tried to explain away these empty seats, but the sight of so many empty seats is a cause for concern.
The World Cup is expected to draw 1.2 million visitors to Qatar, and thousands of fans will travel to the United Arab Emirates for the tournament. There are also plans for private jets and shuttle flights to bring World Cup fans to the host country. But there have been questions raised about the Qatari government’s ability to accommodate the large number of fans. Qatar Airways has pulled 18 destinations from the Hamad International Airport in Doha. The company claims that the priority is to accommodate World Cup fans.
World Cup organizers have claimed that they have sold more than two-and-a-half million tickets for the 2022 tournament. It is the same amount as the tickets sold for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The tickets cost between – and -, but the cheapest Category 4 tickets cost only 11 US dollars for a group match. These tickets are normally reserved for local residents.
The stadiums for the World Cup were built quickly. Most are located within a 30-minute drive of Doha. But the stadiums are on average smaller than previous tournaments. The Al Bayt stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, holds 60,000 people. The Ahmad bin Ali stadium holds 45,632. The Lusail Stadium has 80,000 seats and is expected to host the final of the 2022 World Cup.
The World Cup in Qatar was built on the backs of migrant labor. Many of the workers came from Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. The migrant workers have virtually no rights.