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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Fans set to suffer in 2002
The Yokohama stadium, venue for the 2002 World Cup Final
The Yokohama stadium, venue for the 2002 World Cup Final
While the celebrations from Euro 2000 are still to die down, thoughts are already beginning to turn to the World Cup in two years' time.

The European Championship was virtually an unbridled success, from a fan's and then a purely football point of view.


The trophy they'll all be after
The trophy they'll all be after
Surely, then, the World Cup will be even better. If football keeps improving as a spectacle at the rate it has in the last two years, the fan should be on an absolute winner.

Possibly not.

Not because the football itself will not be good, or the stadia magnificent, or the organisation anything less than first-class.

But because of the simple matter of time-lines.

Time difference

From the parochial point of view of a European fan, the seven-hour time difference could not be much worse.

A game that kicks off at 3pm in Japan or South Korea will be hitting our screens in the UK at 8am - hardly the ideal time to be down the pub sinking pints with a bunch of mates.

An evening kick-off - say 7.45pm, as has been the case at Euro 2000 - clocks in at 11am in the UK. Once again, far from ideal for any supporter trying to hold down a job for the duration of the month-long tournament.

Fifa say that no decision has yet been taken on when exactly games will begin.

Hints

But there were strong hints earlier this year that midnight starts local time - which would mean 5pm kick-offs for British fans - would not be considered.

It is difficult to envisage any team or manager agreeing to start a game any later than 10pm, which means one of the most enjoyable aspects of a major tournament - an evening round the TV watching football - will be missing, unless you are satisfied with highlights packages.

It will also be the longest and biggest World Cup in history, beginning on 31 May and not reaching its conclusion until 30 June.

Thus we could be faced with a scenario where supporters in Europe - nations who, on past form, could be expected to be involved for a large part of the competition - will have to spend a month dodging work and faking doctors' sick notes.


The Media Centre for the 2002 World Cup
The Media Centre for the 2002 World Cup
"We will not be making a decision on kick-off times until later this year," said a FIFA spokesman, "although there has been a lot of work on the matter over the last few months."

Distance

The sheer distance of the host nations from Europe also means it will be difficult to get around the problem by watching the games in person.

Although tickets for first round games start at around the 40 mark, making them accessible to most fans, the cost of getting to South Korea and Japan in the first place will deter many from the UK.

Around 800,000 tickets will be made available to the general public outside of the co-host nations, out of a total of three million.

But with a return ticket from London to Tokyo, economy class, costing around the 1,400 mark with British Airways, it is an option that will be out of many fans' reach.

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See also:

02 Jul 00 | Euro2000
France win Euro 2000
02 Jul 00 | France
Double delight for France
03 Jul 00 | Teams
French passion fits final
01 Jul 00 | Europe
England face torrid 2002 slog
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