SPORTS

Final ticket prices sky-high

A week before Liverpool and AC Milan meet in the Champions League final in Athens on May 23 to decide continental supremacy, a battle is already raging on the Internet among fans desperate for tickets to the game. And despite warnings from Europe’s governing body UEFA for soccer fans to be wary of sellers charging exorbitant fees and failing to deliver, the demand has already increased ticket prices tenfold. Apart from the 17,000 tickets given to each of the clubs, 20,000 tickets were allocated to the «UEFA family» – UEFA and national federation officials, sponsors and guests – and a further 9,000 went into a ballot that ended in February. The asking price for a pair of seats to the final at the Olympic Stadium has skyrocketed from an official price of 80 to 200 euros to between 830 and 1,900 euros with even online sellers across the Atlantic joining in the bonanza. «Yes, I know that the price is a bit crazy, but that was the cheapest I could find at the time and I was very excited to go as I’m a huge Liverpool fan,» wrote US-based eBay seller «ranndino,» who is asking over 2,600 dollars for his ticket. «Now that I can’t go, I’d like to simply recoup my money… I’m not some money-hungry shark. I simply bought the ticket from an Internet resale site and that was the price I paid for it.» UEFA spokesman William Gaillard told the Liverpool Echo last week, «If we built a stadium with a million seats, the match would still sell out and supporters would not be able to see the pitch.» «It’s not possible for more to be released in the coming weeks – 17,000 [for each club] is the final figure.» One seller from Thessaloniki paid 410 euros for two prime seats and now stands to make 1,900 euros for the pair. Another Greek seller, «arisexpress,» tries to entice potential buyers with a bonus gift of six bottles of ouzo, metro tickets and guides to Athens. But not all ticketholders are making money this year. French seller Michael, 25, has had trouble unloading two 80-euro tickets he bought for 2,000 euros. «Last year I bought two tickets for 1,300 euros and sold them for 4,300,» he told AFP. «This year, I think the game is not that hot because it’s the same matchup as two years ago.» The same two teams fought out the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul when Liverpool famously came back from 0-3 down at halftime to defeat the Italians on penalties. Around 50,000 soccer fans are expected to travel to Athens for the final, but only about 35,000 of them will have tickets, Greek police say. Coupled with the fact that the busy tourist season has already started in Athens and local hotels are booked to capacity, this raises the problem of around 15,000 fans milling around the capital without access to the stadium. About 15,000 police officers will be mobilized for the event, in an operation rarely seen since Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics.