FIFA change World Cup stadia capacities after attendance mystery

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FIFA has responded to mass questioning over inaccurate attendance figures at the 2022 World Cup by conveniently increasing the capacity of the host stadiums in Qatar. The winter tournament’s opening five games produced unrealistic attendance figures, which have mysteriously been rectified amid a storm of puzzlement.

The number of empty seats at games in the early stages of the World Cup has been one of the most prominent talking points so far. And it has made FIFA’s official attendance announcements all the more confusing, with all figures standing higher than stadium capacities.

In the opener between hosts Qatar and Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday, 67,372 spectators were supposedly present in the 60,000-capacity venue. It raised eyebrows, with scattered crowd sections visible on TV cameras, but the stadium capacity has since increased to 68,895.

The mystery re-occurred when 45,334 apparently watched England thrash Iran 6-2 at the 40,000-capacity Khalifa International Stadium, despite images showing the ground was far from full and the atmosphere suffering. FIFA has changed the capacity to 45,857 since, but there were undoubtedly more than 323 vacant seats.

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The official attendance figure for the Netherlands’ 2-0 win against Senegal in Group A was 41,721, despite the Al Thumana Stadium only holding 40,000 fans. Well, now it holds 44,400 if FIFA’s changes are to be believed…

It was the same at Wales vs the USA, with 43,138 fans said to be inside the 40,000-capacity Ahmad bin Ali Stadium. And the controversy was also rife in Argentina’s shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia at the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium, hosting the December 18 final, even though it was unsurprisingly the most popular game of the tournament so far.

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Thousands of Saudis and South Americans descended on the impressive venue, but FIFA’s attendance figure claimed that 8,000 more than the capacity were present to witness the Group C opener. The governing body are thought to have claimed the original capacities were incorrect, hence why it has made the timely change.

Tight VAR calls using the semi-automated offside system and the newly-implemented increased stoppage time have joined the empty seats in grabbing headlines in Qatar – on top of the obvious outstanding issues related to the Gulf state. But FIFA has made an interesting attempt to snuff out questions that could only lead to even more.

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