23 October 2009
Thousands of English fans have already begun gearing up for the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, with the international coordinator of the country’s Football Supporters’ Federation, Kevin Miles, spending time in South Africa this week to get the lay of the land.
Miles is confident that the English crowds will come in full force, despite speculation that the global economic situation will affect the numbers of visiting fans. And if England can repeat their performance from 1966, South Africa might just see a tidal wave of English fans arrive at the country’s shores.
“An educated guess is that 25 000 fans will travel [from England],” Miles said this week. “If England get to the final, we can double that.
“Fans will come without tickets and even with no hope of getting a ticket, just so that they can say that they were in Johannesburg when England played in the World Cup final,” Miles said.
“We can definitely expect the group stage to be oversubscribed,” he added.
South Africa’s World Cup stadiums certainly caught the eye of the Football Supporters’ Federation’s international coordinator.
“I think the stadiums look really good, and there is no question they are worthy of hosting a World Cup,” said Miles, who was especially impressed with Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium, which will host the opening and final match of the tournament.
“It is so big, and an impressive stadium. We certainly hope to be there for the final.”
With close to 50 000 tickets applied for to date through Fifa.com from the United Kingdom – currently ranked third in terms of ticket sales – South Africa may expect even more English visitors than what Miles predicts.
In the 2006 Fifa World Cup in Germany, a total of 150 000 English fans travelled to watch matches, although a look at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea/Japan – a similar travelling distance from the UK to South Africa – shows that only 20 000 English fans travelled to the tournament.
As a seasoned World Cup veteran, Miles also had some advice for South Africans looking to cash in on the tourism boom during the World Cup.
“Germany was not a traditional holiday destination for English fans, but after the 2006 Fifa World Cup it was seen in a different light. Tourism increased exponentially in 2007, the year after the tournament.
“Accommodation establishments and restaurants should look to offer people value for money and not inflated prices, so that they return with their families after the tournament is over.”
For Miles, who has attended four World Cups, it is important that South Africans are aware of what is about to hit them when the world descends on the country for the month-long tournament.
“A World Cup has a huge effect on a country – with such a big mix of visitors, there is such huge energy in the country when everyone arrives. At the end of the tournament, South Africans will think, ‘Wow, it’s finished already!”