[WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN] FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke confirmed what had been reported for weeks. World Cup ticket sales are suffering. Twenty percent of VIP tickets for luxury boxes have been sold. And the number of expected visitors to South Africa for the World Cup has been revised downward by as much as 100,000.
Valcke said 2009 "was the worst period to sell hospitality programs. I'm sure that it impacted at least by 50 percent the potential."
With four months left before the World Cup, 800,000 of the 2.9 million available tickets have not been sold. To compensate for poor sales abroad, FIFA is making more tickets available to South Africans at lower prices.
"This will bring less income to FIFA," said Valcke, "but we have already brought in the income we need to match the organizing committee budget, which is $423 million."
One reason for poor ticket sales abroad is the high cost of getting to and staying in South Africa. FIFA is negotiating with airlines to reduce air fares during the World Cup.
"I think that we are facing a peak time where companies feel that they can put the highest level of pricing," said Valcke. "We want to make sure that fans can afford to travel to South Africa. It is clear that people have decided that because it is the World Cup they ask the highest amount possible to maximize income, but it doesn't work today. They forget that it is a long distance to travel to South Africa, you need to stay for more than a few days, so they have to make offers that the fans can afford."