Qatar: Why are there so many empty seats in stadiums announced to be full?

Although the official figures suggest that the public is at the rendezvous of this Qatari World Cup, it is enough to take a look at the stands to realize that some seats remain empty when they are not deserted by their occupants before the end of the encounter. A paradox that raises questions, not to mention the mostly hushed atmosphere that reigns in these vast refrigerated stadiums.

His Qatar led 0-2 by Ecuador and distraught in the face of the situation, Felix Sánchez Bas finished the opening match staring into space. Both figuratively and literally, although he won’t put it that way. Asked about the stands of the Al-Bayt stadium which were drastically sparse from half-time – some deserters having brandished the reason of the cold in the stands, the destroyed chances of their team to come back to the score or the road which awaited them -, the coach of the organizing country kicked into touch, without risking injury to anyone: “I had other things to do than watch the stands. I just have in mind to make sure that the fans can vibrate for their team during the matches to come. » Be it understood the Catalan: the Garnets face Senegal this Friday and will seek to retain their supporters this time until the final whistle. “I didn’t understand the attitude of the Qataris. They looked so happy to be in this stadium for the opening of their World Cup. As soon as the wind turned, they were either on their smartphones or left to climb into their 4×4” is surprised Hamza, a Tunisian supporter present at Al-Bayt, before experiencing a completely different fervor the day after, his own delegation plunging the Education City Stadium into a festive delirium.

Everyone in the stadium raise your finger

The lack of football culture in the country of the sheikhs does not explain the gap that can be measured between the official attendance figures and the many empty spaces visible to the naked eye. Still on the opening match, the announcer proudly announced the presence of 67,372 spectators for a stadium with a capacity of… 60,000 seats indicated on most of the presentation documents. That is an occupancy rate of 112.29%! To explain this surplus, FIFA first informed us that these round figures correspond to what was indicated on the Qatari file, in order to meet the requirements of the international body. After recounting, the Al-Bayt stadium can actually accommodate 68,895 pipe heads. Thus, the 41,721 people for 44,400 at Al-Thumama for Senegal-Netherlands or the 39,089 spectators filling the Al-Janoub stadium and its 44,325 seats seem, if not exact, rather consistent. In total, the total capacity of the stadiums of this Qatari World Cup has therefore increased in a stroke of a calculator from 380,000 to 426,221.

The empty chair policy

Still, there is a doubt about the accounting method concerning the actual attendances. For example, 40,875 people were supposed to attend France-Australia at the Al-Janoub stadium. Except that, again, many folding seats were free. Way more than 3450, anyway. And it’s not the “nice” atmosphere in the spans that could help camouflage them. According Sports Business Club, the organizers would arrive at such figures by adding together the number of general public tickets scanned at the entrance, but also (there is the trick) the number of VIP guests – even those who remain stuffed inside the boxes. sipping champagne from Coca Cola cups – and the media present in the press box, while the maximum capacity displayed only takes into account the seats available for ordinary spectators. The idea behind this scale change is for the organizers to provide grist for their mill. This World Cup was sufficiently presented as a great celebration of football, Gianni Infantino was so delighted with the 2.95 million tickets sold (more than the 2.4 million of Russia), that to communicate scores in half- tint would stain. Even if it means seeing the stands half empty or the stadiums half full, FIFA would be well advised to invite Senegalese percussionists, the Japanese blue army or the Saudi armada to all the stands so that, in addition to having a stadium full, it finally starts ringing.

By Mathieu Rollinger, in Doha
Interview by MR.


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