Gdansk ticket sales anger fans
30 July ~ Since opening two years ago the PGE Arena in Gdansk has been full on only a couple of occasions. Neither has involved the local team Lechia, who only filled one third of the ground last season. The stadium hasn't even sold out for tonight's friendly against Barcelona, for which the home team can't count on much support. Lechia fans with the ID cards you need to see a league game in Poland negotiated a price with the event organisers, which was set at 200 zloty (over £40).
That might not seem much to see Lionel Messi and co, although some more wealthy UK fans were angry when asked for £60 to see Bournemouth take on Real Madrid
To everyone's surprise the tickets didn't sell well. Only couple of hundred Lechia fans bought them while organisers insisted publicly that 32,000 had been sold (the stadium's capacity is 42,000). If they were telling the truth they wouldn't be trying some odd ploys to promote the game, such as a "buy one ticket get one free" offer. A few days before the original date of the game (July 20) tickets were easily available online for 129 zloty, almost 50 per cent cheaper than the "special price for Gdansk fans". Lechia fans felt cheated and issued a statement saying they are boycotting the game
Then there was the "kids' game escort". A local paper ran an online poll to decide which children would get to lead the players onto the pitch. After couple of days it was clear the system was not secure and could be easily hacked. The child of a friend was placed fifth in the poll at one point, the next minute he was 29th. This was not the organisers' fault but it didn't improve the atmosphere surrounding the game.
The game was then called off 24 hours before it was due to take place, with coach Tito Villanova's serious illness cited as the reason. We all wish him luck but calling a game off at such short notice does not look professional. Many people travelled from faraway places to see Messi and his support cast – it was clear from the start that those taking part in June's Confederations Cup would not fly to Gdansk. After Barcelona's decision not to travel, many accused them of treating Poland like a third world country, especially as the team played Bayern Munich in a friendly couple of days later.
Finally, tonight, it seems the game is going ahead. Lechia felt like they had hit the jackpot when they managed to offload Brazilian midfielder Ricardinho to Moldavan team Sheriff Tiraspol for around £300,000 while Barcelona released Thiago Alcantara (who was no more than a squad player) to Bayern Munich for about £20 million. But no one would care about the difference in footballing abilities if the ticket rules were fair and clear. Maciej Slominski