In Depth

Fifa sells off World Cup tickets reserved for the disabled

Is low demand from disabled fans down to infrastructure problems outside the grounds?

With the World Cup just a week away, organisers have begun selling tickets reserved for the disabled to able-bodied fans.

Announcing its final round of ticket sales this week, Fifa said: "After about ten months of sales... there has been very little demand for the seats dedicated to people with reduced mobility. Therefore, Fifa will make the majority of this inventory available to all fans but keep an allocation of these seats reserved."

In the official World Cup media kit, Fifa states that at least one per cent of the tickets will be made available for disabled customers, and says anyone misrepresenting themselves as disabled would be banned.

But last month Syghana.com reported that many African fans applying for visas to Brazil had obtained tickets meant for the disabled. The Brazilian ambassador told the website: "Some Ghanaian fans bought tickets of seats [for] disabled people...  I don't know how they will get into the stadium." 

However, it now appears that low demand for disabled tickets has prompted Fifa to sell off the surplus to able-bodied fans.

One reason for the lack of demand from disabled fans could be problems with getting to the stadia. The Chicago Tribune reports that it took Brazilian congresswoman Mara Gabrilli, a quadriplegic and an international activist on disability issues, two hours to get from the centre of Sao Paolo to Arena Corinthians, 12 miles away.

Her journey included "three subway trains, nine elevators and a wheelchair-accessible van provided by the city government". Once there, however, she was impressed. "Hundreds of police, stadium staff and volunteers were on hand to provide directions, push wheelchairs over cracks and otherwise help atone for incomplete construction," reports the paper. 

But while Fifa insists that stadia are wheelchair friendly, "in Brazil, as in many developing countries, disabled fans will face accessibility challenges at hotels, restaurants and other facilities".

The paper adds that Rio de Janeiro's municipal tourism secretary, Antonio Pedro Figueira de Mello, said in a recent radio interview that organisers had not given disabled fans the "necessary attention".

However, he added: "Those people don't tend to come to World Cups that much."

That prompted an angry response from disability campaigner Teresa Amaral, who pointed out that 14.5 per cent of the population had some form of disability and told Brazilian website Turismo Adapto his comments were "absurd".

"Every Brazilian has the right to go to the World Cup and get around the city," she said.

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