South Africa has its dangers, but high ticket prices are more likely to spoil the World Cup, writes Chris Stocks.

The World Cup in South Africa is just under four months away, but a wave of negative publicity threatens to cast a shadow over the event.

The chief concern among those travelling to the country is crime – with the oft-quoted official government statistic of 50 murders per day the headline figure.

That is why BBC staff going to the World Cup will have ‘hostile environment’ training which is usually given to correspondents covering war zones such as Iraq.

It might also have been prompted by the gun attack by militants on the Togo team at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, which, perhaps unfairly, raised fears of a repeat in South Africa.

That’s unlikely given the country has no problem with terrorists – crime is the chief concern.

There have been many scare stories, with the most eye-catching coming from a security consultant for Germany who advised players to wear bullet-proof vests whenever they left the ‘safety’ of their heavily-armed base.

But, having visited Johannesburg during England’s recent cricket tour, I would be more worried about the cost of match tickets and travel than crime

Tickets for England’s group match against Slovenia are going for between £100 and £50. But, the average price of a tour package to watch all three England group games plus probable second-round fixture is around £6,000.

One firm is even charging £8,500 for a three-night trip to the World Cup final in Johannesburg.

Those prices, not crime, is why ticket sales are sluggish and why, after making a £178million profit from the 2006 tournament in Germany, Fifa are expected to make a loss on this year’s event.

The reason for these high prices is not just rampant profiteering. The lack of accommodation and relative scarcity of flights has also driven up prices.

But, if you can afford to get to the finals, what can you expect? Crime, as I have said, is a potential problem, but you should not be affected if you take the same sensible precautions anyone who lives in a major city in the UK would take every day.

There is one major difference, though. Public transport in South Africa is poor and sometimes unsafe so it is advisable to travel by either a private-hire car or taxi.

That is how I visited Soccer City, the stadium on the outskirts of Soweto which will host the opening match of the tournament, as well as the final. It is impressive, although I was only able to view it from the outside as construction is still not complete.

But it will soon be finished and South Africa will be ready to host the World Cup. It would be nice if the tournament sees the world’s view of the country rebuilt too.

AUTHOR: Chris Stocks
DATED: 12th February 2010