Is the electric atmosphere at home discouraging fans from travelling to Russia en masse?
A first semi-final since 1990 would, in normal circumstances, instigate a mass influx of St George flag-wielding England fans to whatever host country the Three Lions would be competing in, but in Russia, only around 7000 fans are anticipated in Moscow – why?
The Russian hooligan narrative has well and truly worn off now. Those fans who have made the journey over to Russia have been quick to pass on the message that Russia is not this hoodlum haven many had predicted it would be – the hospitality over here is warm and welcoming, with the cities and stadiums well worth the visit alone.
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So why, with England on the verge of a first World Cup final in 52 years, in a World Cup on European soil, just, is there not tens of thousands of screaming England supporters here, clambering to be part of history?
“It is still not the easiest to get out here and prices are only going to go up if we get to the final,” Football Supporters’ Federation chief executive Kevin Miles told Yahoo Sport. “But there is nothing to be scared of.
“If you haven’t got the tickets beforehand, there are very few still officially on sale. There hasn’t been much of a black market in previous rounds, but it is starting to emerge now. It is not cheap, even face value, at this stage in the tournament.
“One problem is that the website has been inundated and it keeps crashing. There will be fans who come over and try and get tickets, if not watch it in a bar, but not in any great number.”
Money and logistics have not put England fans off before, though, with a greater number than will be in Moscow travelling all the way over to Niigata in Japan to see England take on Denmark in the round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup – this is a semi-final, much closer to home.
At the FIFA Ticketing Centre in Moscow we find long queues of fans trying to get their hands on the final few official tickets, but nothing out of the ordinary.
As is not normally the case for such a crucial match, there were actually more touts desperately trying to sell outside nearby Dobryninskaya Metro Station, with prices inflated, but not extortionate.
So why no influx? Yes prices are inflated, but there’s always a cheap, often long, way here, as fans have alway done. The atmosphere at home, helped massively by the longest heatwave in five years might have something to do with it.
“I booked the tickets a few weeks ago, but nearly didn’t get on the flight,” one fan tells Yahoo Sport outside the ticket office. “All my mates are off work, and we watched the game on Brighton beach. It was unreal. Beats stood in this queue anyway.”
English summers are often the butt of the joke around the world, but much of the country has had the last laugh this year, with temperatures soaring above many more tropical destinations, all while the football team has exceeded all expectation. The atmosphere, despite the political turmoil, is therefore as positive as it has been for a long time.
There is nothing to be scared of
“The tickets have consistently sold out at both Croydon and Shoreditch within 10 minutes,” Roger Wade, CEO and Founder of Boxpark – two huge venues that have televised matches on big screen – tells Yahoo Sport. “On Monday when we released the semi-final tickets, there were over 100,000 people trying to buy 1000 tickets at once.
“The experience is further enhanced because it’s a smaller environment and it’s a dedicated fanzone. We have DJ Spoony playing to the crowd two hours before the game and in two hours afterwards so everyone is in great form and we had no major trouble.
“This is a major milestone in our football history and everyone wants to share the experience with fellow fans. The atmosphere at Boxpark Croydon in particular has been incredible. Some people have said that the atmosphere is even better than going to the stadium.”
Footage of fans celebrating wildly in Croydon has gone viral, with other venues trying hard to replicate such scenes.
Grand venues such as these are nothing new, but with so many cropping up, on beaches, warehouses, parks etc, you can get a real sense of atmosphere on your doorstep. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has even announced Hyde Park will televise today’s semi-final.
Those traditional football followers will staunchly defend travelling to see your team play, with the experience “not the same”, but, saving more than £1000 in the process, fans can bask in the sunshine, and celebrate England’s glory as one. Even if England get to the final, don’t expect many to want to miss out on that.