Nothing compares to the thrill of a World Cup stadium visit. Even though chances are few and competition is gigantic, there is still hope of landing one of the 3.07 million match tickets. It only takes a bit of luck as well as the right timing. Here are three-and-a-half suggestions as to how to secure a last-minute stadium seat.
1. The Fifth Official Sales Period at fifaworldcup.com
On May 1 (noon CET/6:00 a.m. ET), FIFA will open their fifth official sales period to offer tickets which have been returned for various reasons. Not all of the 32 federations, especially not the smaller ones, are expected to consume their eight-percent allocation. While this won't free tickets for the top nations or marquee matches, it should still give a fans a legitimate chance to catch a glimpse of the more unheralded teams. Successive returns are also expected from sponsors, due to non-payment and after the finalization of stadium seating plans. Orders will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis whenever there are capacities.
Until May 5, fans can obtain conditional tickets providing top priority for potential returns. It's possible to sign up for up to seven matches, although just one request will be granted.
Since neither number nor time of the returns are predictable, it might be worth keeping an eye on the Ticket Shop at all time. If you're stuck in front of your computer late at night, you might get rewarded for risking a look.
Keep this tactic in mind for our second option.
2. The Resale Shop
FIFA has launched an internet portal where fans can offer their match tickets for resale. Those will be offered under "Resale" at the Ticket Shop from May 1 until 48 hours before the respective kickoffs. New purchasers will pay the face value plus an add-on of 15 percent (up to an maximum of 15 euros). It's first-come, first-serve again, making it pretty unpredictable but somewhat promising.
2˝. Ticket Transfer
Bad news for all of you who were to rely on internet auctions. Unless the name on the ticket matches the one in your passport (yes, there will be controls!), you might not be allowed into the stadium.
FIFA tried to cut down on all black-market activities by prohibiting any sort of transfers, but after a wave of protests from consumer associations and fans, they decided to implement a Transfer Center in March.
However, the World Cup Organising Committee (OC) has installed strict transfer regulations.
"Tickets may only be transferred to nominated persons in exceptional circumstances due to reasons of fairness," OC vice-president Horst R. Schmidt explained. "Persons receiving transferred tickets are at an advantage to those still applying for match tickets via official channels on account of the enormous worldwide demand. To a certain extent, this person is jumping ahead of those still waiting in a virtual queue on the internet."
From May 1 until 48 hours prior to the respective kickoffs, tickets can be transferred -- but only if one of the following reasons applies:
" Transfer within the family
" Illness or death
" Visa problems or traveling bans
" Act of God (e.g. political unrest, natural disaster)
" Other case of hardship
Apart from a written explanation, the OC might ask for documentation. "Decisions on each individual case will be like a balancing act," added Schmidt. "Of course, we would like to make decisions in favor of the fans, but for well-documented security reasons we also have to exercise caution."
During the first transfer period from March 27 to April 9, the OC received 53,000 transfer requests. 25,000 were within the family, while 8,500 cited illness. 9,000 transfers were voided and might now be negotiated with the help of an ombudsman. Random testing unveiled several attempts of defraud. In one obvious case, the addressee of the transfer -- the son -- turned out to be 30 years older than his imaginary mother.
So Ebay does not sound like a favorable option at all, unless you acquired your tickets before the implementation of the official transfer portal in October. Still, you would have to follow the example of a German fan who sued the OC over its decision not to transfer the tickets he had acquired at Ebay. A local court supported him -- but only because there was no official way of swapping tickets at the time he got them. So the ruling will definitely not open the door for free trades -- much on the contrary. Consumer activists have urged fans not to use Ebay and sorts. In some countries, like England for example, selling World Cup tickets is prohibited by law anyway.
An estimated 400,000 tickets will be made available through lotteries organized by official partners and sponsors. Again, it comes down to a question of luck.
As a native of Germany, Johannes Berendt can't wait for the World Cup to start. He covers international sports for the British Press Association and ESPN SportsTicker.