Desperate England fans turning to black market to get semi-final tickets
Tickets on the official Fifa website had sold out by Sunday, while the Football Association sold its official allocation of 2,180.
England fans desperate to be a part of the Three Lions’ Russian roadshow are being forced to turn to the black market to get tickets.
Supporters began to arrive in Moscow on Tuesday ahead of the national team’s biggest game in decades – a World Cup semi-final against Croatia on Wednesday night.
Police estimate there could be as many as 10,000 England fans jetting into the Russian capital for the game but perhaps only half will have got hold of official tickets.
Interest in travelling to Russia has soared since the beginning of the tournament, which began with historically low numbers of England fans in the stands against Tunisia.
Mark Roberts, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for football policing, said: “I think we’ll see more, I think influx is probably overstating it.
“We’re estimating eight to 10,000 – it’s really difficult to tell because when people take direct routes it’s obviously easy to count them but people might come by diverse routes, there are quite a lot of expats here and other fans staying out.”
Asked how many might be ticketless, he said: “It’s difficult to judge, we know from the ticket sales we can probably reasonably expect through official channels about half that number to get tickets.
“There is a bit of a black market, but not much of one.
“I think it’s fair to say a lot of the Russians, even though it’s not their team, it’s on their doorstep, how often you get a World Cup semi-final in your city so there are not a great deal of tickets going spare.
“So there may be people here without tickets, hopefully they can enjoy the atmosphere in the fan fest.”
According to the Russian Ministry of Communications, nearly 7,000 more England fans ordered a Fan ID after England’s quarter-final win against Sweden on Saturday.
As of July 7, some 21,700 fans had ordered the obligatory identity cards – which in itself was a rise from 17,722 from the day after England beat Panama 6-1.
According to the communication ministry’s spokeswoman the number of Fan IDs ordered by England fans stood at 28,048 by Tuesday.
As for tickets, those on the official Fifa website had sold out by Sunday, while the Football Association sold its official allocation of 2,180.
But a black market continued to operate quite openly outside the official Fifa ticketing centre near Dobryninskaya Metro station.
One England fan, who gave his name only as George, from Doncaster, was haggling with touts and individual fans selling tickets to try and get one below face value.
He said he had three friends coming who would also need tickets.
George was offered category one tickets for 900 US dollars (£678) and category two tickets for 650 US dollars (£490) by a tout called Frank, who said he had seven tickets for sale and could not drop his prices because they were set by his “boss”.
The England fan decided to wait it out for a better offer and nearly sealed a deal until two police officers moved in to talk to a seller and take his Fan ID details.
Other fans adopted a waiting game, including Keith Sutton, who arrived in Moscow without a ticket for the semi-final.
The 62-year-old, from Salford, said: “They’re going for face value at the moment.
“I’m going to wait until tomorrow.
“They can’t get rid of them fast enough. It’s a bear market.”
Fans in the area were warned by members of the Football Supporters’ Federation that category one tickets being touted may have already been cancelled even though sellers had the hard copy.
And Mr Roberts said fans were at risk of getting “ripped off”.
“I think if you come and do that then you’ve got to be aware you are running a substantial risk of however many thousands of pounds you pay for a ticket, once you actually get to the stadium you won’t get in anyway,” he said.