Dear sponsors, sit where you like

“Inspire a generation” and “The greatest tickets on Earth” are mottos with whom we’ve become familiar since last Friday, when the Olympic extravaganza began.

While the Games are undoubtedly the greatest show on Earth, what exactly will thousands of empty seats do to inspire a generation isn’t too clear, in fact it isn’t clear at all.

Following three days of embarrassment where rows of empty seats popped up at venues like acne on a teenager’s face, Locog decided to reissue thousands of tickets on a daily basis, to ensure that people that had missed out in the different ballots – all the events, remember, were sold out according to the organisers – could still have a chance to secure themselves a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Empty seats have appeared pretty much at every event so far, but nowhere have they been as evident as in football, with some 500,000 tickets unsold.

Locog officials have made clear that the empty seats are largely due to sponsors and corporates members who have failed to turn up, as well as tickets originally allocated to national federations now being returned to the organisers.

Football is the country’s most popular sport and with Great Britain fielding a team for the first time since 1960 many expected a more successful return in terms of public interest.

Obviously it’s harder to fill a stadium with a capacity of 80,000 people than a 5,000 seats  arena but, for the same reason, football tickets are amongst the cheapest in an otherwise overpriced market.

A lack of interest generated by the perceived lack of genuine stars – and a 12-month long football indigestion culminating with Euro 2012 – as well as the home federations getting involved in a political tussle belonging to a bygone era haven’t helped to spark the enthusiasm the organisers had hoped for.

This is despite an exciting Brazilian team fielding future stars such as Oscar and Neymar, a Spain side including Premier League boys David De Gea and Juan Mata and the women’s tournament boasting the world’s best players.

For many the main culprits are the sponsors, a problem that football fans around the country are all too familiar with, as organisers are happy to reward companies for their financial commitments by running the risk of having half-empty venues, rather than value dedicated supporters.

IOC President Jacque Rogge said earlier this week that: “Withouth sponsors, there wouldn’t be any Olympics,” which is all well and good from the political side of things but bordering on scandalous when fans are told that tickets are sold out and have no options but to sit and look at rows of empty seats through their TV screens.

Imagine the disappointment at knowing that your application wasn’t successful not because like-minded fans were quicker at entering their credit card details but because the GM of some company was gifted a ticket for an event for whom he will not even bother turn up for?

Sadly this is nothing new, only two months ago Liverpool and Chelsea received only 25,000 tickets each for the FA Cup final, with the remaining 40,000 tickets to be split between the “Football community”, an outstandingly shallow name for an organisation that includes sponsors, FA dignitaries and so on.

UEFA aren’t new to the game either, with only 25% of the tickets available for this year’s Champions League final in Munich destined to the clubs, meaning that only around of 17,500 fans were able to support their team in the biggest game of the season.

Euro 2012 didn’t fare much better either, with empty seats appearing with alarmingly regularity, and tickets available on sale for some of the games even after the tournament had started. Again, lots of fans had their applications returned, due to the event being sold out according to the organisers.

Rogge might be right, without sponsors there wouldn’t be any event, but an event without fans would force sponsors to reconsider their involvement and deprive the athletes of a well deserved support.

Team GB footballers, men and women, highlighted their hopes of playing in front of capacity crowds and positive turnouts for Team GB games at Old Trafford and Wembley were encouraging.

London 2012 is an occasion, perhaps a unique one for many of us, to show support for Britain’s teams and also to prove that fans are as essential to the sports almost as the athletes themselves and definitely more than any money-making machine.

Tickets for London 2012 Football tournament are still available on the official ticketing website, www.tickets.london2012.com

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