x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Attendances matter at the Club World Cup

Want to see the Club World Cup return to the UAE, and sooner rather than later? In 2013 rather than 2023? Buy a ticket to this year's tournament.

Want to see the Club World Cup return to the UAE, and sooner rather than later? In 2013 rather than 2023? Buy a ticket to this year's tournament.

That was the message from the Football Association (FA) president as well as from Fifa yesterday: crowds count.

A year ago, the average attendance at a match in Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup (CWC) was 19,544 - or less than half the average crowd in Japan for the three previous tournaments.

The 2009 numbers were soft for any match not involving Barcelona. The two quarter-finals were empty-stadium debacles: 9,627 for the Auckland City-Atlante match and 7,222 for the TP Mazembe-Pohang Steelers game. Fifa does not like empty stadiums: they look bad on television and they seem to suggest disinterest.

Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the FA president, said "we are counting on spectators" to turn out to support any future CWC bid by Abu Dhabi. He added: "Everything else is logistics."

Local organisers hope a new e-ticketing system, better-informed volunteers in the stadiums and at least one victory by home side Al Wahda will help push the numbers during this crucial first week.

If they do not, the best logistics in the world may not be enough to bring the CWC back anytime soon.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae