Where Are the Fans at the Copa América?

The relatively well-attended Copa América opening ceremony in 2007. Source: Wikimedia The 2019 edition of the Copa América features a total of ten international sides drawn from South America as well as two invited Asian teams, Qatar and Japan. Having been staged regularly since 1916, when it was first hosted by Argentina, the competition has grown in stature and it is now followed by soccer fans all around the globe as one of the world's leading international tournaments. However, the 2019 competition has seen some rather empty stadiums during the initial stages which has led to a lacklustre atmosphere for the players and fans watching it on TV, alike. In some cases, viewers have been able to see more empty seats than occupied ones. Despite this, the Brazilian footballing authorities have said that ticket revenues have been among the best ever, exceeding their expectations. How can this be?

The Low Turnout

The 2019 Copa América has had no games which have sold out - thus far, at least. Only time will tell if that situation can be turned around. Indeed, the tournament's pool-stage matches have struggled to attract crowds that have got beyond 40 per cent with only two being half full. When Uruguay took on Ecuador, a game which they won by three goals to nil, a crowd of just 13,611 was officially recorded. Japan's four-nil defeat to Chile had an attendance which was just a little over 23,000 fans while Venezuela's opening draw against Peru failed to even attract as many as 14,000 spectators. Okay, Brazil's opening game was understandably better attended with 47,260 supporters turning out to witness the host nation's three-nil victory over Bolivia. When neighbouring Argentina took on Columbia, there was a crowd that exceeded 35,000, another better turn out. That said, anyone who has followed the games on television will have noticed just how empty all of the stadiums look. After all, the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro has a capacity of almost 75,000 so the grandstands look conspicuously empty when no game, so far, has been able to attract more than 50,000 or so supporters. Chile versus Japan in the 2019 Copa América. Source: Wikimedia

High Prices

The main reason that fans have steered clear of watching games live during the current edition of the Copa América is that it is just so expensive to purchase a ticket. The average ticket price for a typical pool game has been approaching the £45 mark. Given the incomes of many ordinary football fans from South America, the pricing strategy should not be underestimated as the main reason why turnout has been disappointingly low. Of course, you should also factor in the fact that Brazilians are able to purchase tickets at a discounted price compared with overseas supporters. As such, many fans from other nations have simply stayed away, preferring to watch their team on TV instead. The high pricing strategy of the Brazilian footballing authorities has led to some remarkable income despite the low turnout. The organising committee claimed that it made a multi-million pound profit from the tournament's opener despite its disappointing attendance figures. However, there is something else at play. In some places, Brazil's natural support base is deserting the national team with club allegiances being seen as more important than turning out to see international ties. This limited support has not been shown in the sports betting of the average casino, however, where people are betting on Brazil being the winner in great numbers. So, if the host nation continues to win and build momentum, then increased attendance numbers can be expected. Like so many things in football, fans are willing to pay the price to see their team so long as they return that faith with some on-field success.

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