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Jan 31, 2011

Questions remain after Qatar ticket farce

Qatar's first chance to prove they were ready to host the World Cup in 2022 ended in embarrassment as the final of the Asian Cup was marred by accusations of incompetence over ticketing arrangements.

Around 3,000 people were locked out of the Khalifa Stadium for Saturday's final between Australia and Japan, with at least 700 of them holders of valid tickets for the match.

There were also reports of overzealous policing and stewarding, with fans claiming they were confronted by aggressive riot police. One woman claimed she had received gouge wounds on her hands as a policeman grabbed her camera in the crush outside the gates.

Jassim al-Rumaihi, the organising committee director, sought to put the blame entirely on ticket holders arriving late for the game.

"There was a big crowd outside and most of them did not have tickets," he told the Times. "The tickets have been issued for six months … [but] people are waiting until the last minute and they want to come to the stadium.

"We were supposed to close the gate because of security reasons around 5.30pm [but] we continued to open the gate until around 6.05pm. People were coming with and without tickets, most of them without tickets, a couple of thousand, which was causing a problem.

"Some of them were unhappy about not attending the match even though they held tickets but due to the security and protection of the spectators, we decided to not allow them in.

"Some of them went to the media centre, complaining, but everybody should know this is a tournament and it has a security procedure, especially for the opening and the closing ceremony, so people should consider this. We were hoping that we didn't have something like this happen but it happened. You can't please everybody.

"They should plan this earlier so that they come to the stadium with no hassle."

Spectators also claimed they were not allowed to leave the ground until an hour after the final whistle, but this was denied by Al-Rumaihi. "Some of the people left the stadium before the trophy presentation was finished," he said. "The gates were open. It was not an issue leaving the stadium."

Despite the row over ticketing and criticism that many matches were poorly attended, Al-Rumaihi said he was "in general, very happy," adding: "Some issues have been raised that we have to consider. We will sit down with the security people. We have big events coming, not just the World Cup."

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