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Infantino backs transfer-market reform

FIFA
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 By Leo Spall

England fans among lowest number of applicants for World Cup tickets

England fans' interest in buying tickets for World Cup matches has been among the lowest of the countries qualified to play in Russia this summer.

After two sales phases, applications were made for a total of just 57,957 seats, which is less than one percent of the tournament's overall figure of 8.4 million, according to world governing body FIFA.

While Russian fans made the bulk of seat applications, nearly half of ticket requests came from outside the host country in the second phase.

But the number of tickets sought at that stage by fans from England -- a nation which often has one of the largest followings at major tournaments -- put the country in 20th place for applications made for the 32-team tournament.

England was outside the top 10 in the first phase too, when organisers received more applications from Egypt.

Fans from Germany sought 338,414 tickets in the second phase alone and even those from Iceland, a country with a population of just 334,252, made 55,232 seat applications in total. Fans from the U.S. made 87,052 in the second phase.

Gareth Southgate has tried to manage expectations before the World Cup.

Supporters have been able to buy tickets for specific games in neutral seating areas from the start of the sales process, but each nation has also been given an allocation for its matches for fan club members to sit together.

Sources have told ESPN FC that the areas reserved solely for England followers at their Group G games against Tunisia, when only 2,816 tickets were available, and Panama, when 2,855 were on sale, have not sold out. The FA had not responded to this claim by Friday morning.

Explanations for the apathy of England fans have ranged from disillusion at the prospects of Gareth Southgate's team to fears about hooliganism and heavy-handed policing following several flashpoints at Euro 2016.

Cost could also be a factor with reports of hotels hiking prices by up to 18,000 percent.

"I don't think anybody doubts the ability of the Russians to be welcoming hosts and efficiently organise a safe and professional tournament," said Kevin Miles, the chief executive of the Football Supporters' Federation.

"However, even though Russia is a UEFA member and, therefore, technically a European host, for many fans the logistical challenges posed by the distances involved, and the fact that many host cities don't have well established tourist infrastructure, means many may be treating it like a long-haul destination."

A total of 2.5m tickets were available for the tournament's 64 matches, which will be played in 12 stadiums in 11 different cities. A total of 742,760 were allocated in the first phase with oversubscribed tickets applications subject to a random draw. Any remaining seats will go on sale in April.

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