The FIFA Under-17 World Cup was an opportunity for India to showcase their ability to host big tournaments.
After the debacle of Commonwealth Games in 2010, the Under-17 World Cup was their biggest chance to change the world’s opinion on India having the bandwidth to host and organize mega events.
While the infrastructure bit was taken care of in time by the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), it was the rest of the organization which left a lot to be desired.
At almost every venue, several seats were empty. At Kolkata, the local state association asked for 200 tickets for former footballers but only 85 was given while a lottery system determined who would get a ticket.
“All the tickets that have been put up for sale, are the maximum number of tickets that can be sold at each venue discounting below mentioned commitments. When a venue appears sold out, it reflects the position of tickets that have been put out for sale,” read the statement from the LOC on Sunday.
Interestingly, it’s the next bit which is startling.
“Discounting the contractual obligations with the Hosting Association (State Association), all the participating teams (24 teams), all the 13 commercial partners of the Tournament (adidas, Coca Cola, Wanda, Gazprom, Hyundai, Qatar Airways, Visa, Bank of Baroda, Coal India Limited, Hero, Dalmia Cement, NTPC and Byju’s), the host broadcaster (Sony), the signatories of host city (state government), stadium and training site agreements (Sports Authority of India) and other stakeholders with which there are contracts with regards to the Tournament, to provide tickets."
What this essentially means is that the LOC have been allowed to sell only so many tickets, which they have. However, if you do find fans not thronging to the stadium or not being able to buy a ticket, it’s because the LOC are obligated to share tickets with the State Associations, Central and State Governments, Sports Authority of India (SAI), Sony and the 13 sponsors. It must be added that most of the state association's heads are part of the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Executive Committee and are affiliated members of the AIFF.
This not only comes across as daft but shows the lack of coordination between the LOC and the rest of the above-mentioned organizations.
The question is why are these being pointed out now? Why didn’t the LOC explain that they had to give so many tickets under obligation? So the sponsors and broadcaster has to take the blame despite having invested in the competition heavily, as per the LOC's statement. Probably a thing or two needs to be learnt about managing commercial partners and not blaming them at the first instance.
Why pass the buck when the stands are empty?