Is watching Brazil World Cup soccer in person reserved for the rich?

When Brazil decided to host the World Cup there was hope that both rich and poor citizens could see games live on their home turf. That hasn't been the case.

Andrew Medichini/AP
Spectators watch the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between France and Nigeria in the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Riogringa. The views expressed are the author's own.

When Brazil ended up using largely public funds to finance stadiums, there was a hope that at least a wide array of Brazilians would be able to witness games on their home turf to take advantage of playing host. But when the tournament began, some observed that Brazil team games appeared to be a sea of white faces in the stands. Then, pollster Datafolha decided to find out definitively, surveying attendees at Saturday's Brazil vs. Chile game. Around 67 percent of attendees identified as white, and 90 percent identified as members of the A and B classes, or the highest-earning social classes in Brazil. So why is this the case?

A larger international trend of expensive soccer tickets

In the Britain, for example, the average price for the cheapest adult season ticket to a top-four division soccer match cost around $573 last year. Plus, some observers note that overall, regardless of the teams playing, this year's World Cup matches appear to have largely white crowds.

Ticket scalping

There have been numerous reports about reselling World Cup tickets online for inflated prices. Some of those tickets are from the discounted category, and it's possible those who got discounted seats tried to make a profit. Plus, jacked-up prices for scalped tickets mean last-minute buyers tend to be more well off.

A presidential veto

Before signing the controversial World Cup Law, President Dilma Rousseff vetoed a provision that would have reserved 10 percent of all Brazil-team game tickets for discounted seats. She vetoed another provision suspending state and municipal ticketing laws that allow discounts for certain groups. So in the end, FIFA created what was called the "Category 4" tickets exclusive for Brazilians. Within Category 4, there were half-price tickets available for Brazilian students, senior citizens, and recipients of the Bolsa Família program. The Brazilian government said that 400,000 Category 4 tickets would be sold for the whole World Cup, and that 50,000 free tickets would be given to stadium-construction workers and another 50,000 free tickets to indigenous fans and Bolsa Família recipients.

For the Brazil-Chile game, the cheapest tickets made up around 5 percent of all tickets sold, according to The Associated Press. FIFA says that for group-stage games, it sold 143,364 of the cheapest tickets, amounting to approximately 3,000 tickets per game. But these inexpensive tickets sold out quickly. And while courtesy ticketing took place, there were reports of construction workers scalping their free tickets.

World Cup soccer still out of reach for many

FIFA charged prices that were marginally cheaper for Brazilians than for foreigners in each ticketing category based on current exchange rates. But tickets were still expensive and Category 4 seats were limited, as one can observe by looking at seating charts. Category 1-3 tickets range from about $82 to $900, with more expensive tickets for the opening match and later rounds of the games. The country does have a large and growing new middle class, but even some of the lower-end Category 3 prices can represent a month's salary for a family of four wanting to attend a game.

For those interested in the racial/socioeconomic divide in Brazil and how this affected World Cup spectatorship, read the Globe & Mail's coverage of this issue.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to