On Friday at the Women’s World Cup, FIFA announced the attendance for the USA-Sweden match as a sellout of 32,716 at Winnipeg Stadium.
A quick glance at the stands just as the match was starting suggests that the number was probably fairly accurate with very few empty seats visible.
Earlier in the day, Australia faced Nigeria in the same stadium. FIFA announced the attendance for that match as also being a sellout of 32,716.
However, a glance at the stands as the match started painted a much different picture with lots of empty seats.
The reason for the discrepancy is that group stage matches are played in pairs (four teams in each group play two matches on the same day in the same stadium) and FIFA is selling single tickets for both games of the double-header.
This allows FIFA to report the combined attendance for both matches as the attendance for each match when in reality the true attendance for one or both matches is likely to be much different.
According to the Edmonton Sun, ticket sales were approaching 1.0 million on the eve of the tournament with FIFA and tournament officials hoping for 1.5 million tickets sold. However, as Dominic Bossi of The Sydney Morning Herald points out, half of the matches are double-headers and the tickets sold for those matches are counted twice whether the person holding the ticket attends both matches or not.
In other words, whatever the final attendance figure is when announced by FIFA at the end of the tournament, the actual number will be much less.
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