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Empty seats: What’s the story?

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Back on the 1st April 2012, UEFA announced via their own website (no misquoting there, surely?) that “the demand for the various types of ticket available for UEFA EURO 2012 has exceeded supply for all matches of the final tournament”.

Maybe the April Fools’ Day date was significant as on 5th June UEFA admitted that nearly 10,000 tickets remained unsold for matches in Ukraine.

On the day before the France game, Free Lions enquired on behalf of England fans how to purchase tickets for the match, to be told that only 100 tickets remained – tickets that had been returned to UEFA that day by the FA. They were being sold from the Ticketing Centre at the Donbass Arena; two hours or so later, the FSF’s England fans’ representatives were told they had sold out.

Then at the game itself, the Free Lions team encountered images such as the above picture which was taken inside the stadium, mid-match; whole blocks of the ground left empty. And there were too many empty seats, in concentrated clusters, for them to be explained by individual no-shows.

The Free Lions team have a bit of a thing about empty seats at England matches. Often, it’s because they’re frustrated at matches taking place with gaps in the stands while England fans have been locked out because they couldn’t get tickets. That’s not the case this time: any England fan who wanted a ticket for France v England in Donetsk could have got hold of one without difficulty.

There must be reasons why the tickets went unsold. Maybe they were over-priced for local pockets – even though to us, softened up by the Premier League, the prices seem reasonable. Surely something could be done to get those gaps filled?

First of all though, we’d like to know the real story. Was the game sold out, or not? It didn’t look like it, but if it wasn’t, why say that it was? A bit of transparency would help: we’ll be asking the questions and reporting back.

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Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund


  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • Pledgeball
  • SD Europe