England fans at next summer’s World Cup in Russia will not need expensive tourist visas and can enjoy free transport on match days – but only if they get organised, the hosts have warned.
Trialled at this year’s Confederations Cup, all ticket-holders at Russia 2018 will also need a ‘FAN ID’ to gain entry to the stadiums.
A small, laminated card with a photograph on it, Russia 2018’s organisers believe supporters will even wear FAN ID between games as badges of honour and a means to meeting other fans.
Speaking at the venue for Friday’s World Cup draw in the Kremlin, Russian ministry of communications and mass media director Andrey Chernenko explained the benefits of the FAN ID to visitors but glossed over the fact it was also a key measure in keeping the host nation’s hooligans away from games.
Chernenko said fans who have bought tickets should then visit www.fan-id.ru to register for the mandatory identification document.
Once the request has been approved, which should take no more than two days, supporters will either be able to pick up their FAN IDs at distribution centres in the 11 host cities, collect them from a VFS Global visa centre or have them sent by post.
The last two options were not available at the Confederations Cup, which led to significant delays for fans trying to collect their documents before games.
“We learned a lot this summer and have improved the infrastructure and put in place a better awareness campaign, which we think will be very useful,” said Chernenko.
“We think the FAN ID will be part of the celebration and we can see that it is already working.”
So far, there have been 80,000 applications for FAN IDs, with more than two thirds of those being Russian but increasing numbers coming from abroad, too, with England fans eighth on an international list topped by two countries that did not even qualify: China and the United States.
The pros of the system for visitors from England, and most other European counties, are obvious as there is no need to apply for a tourist visa that can cost at least Ã‚Â£120 for a single visit, including fees and postage.
Holders of a FAN ID will be able to enter and leave Russia multiple times from June 5 to July 25, 10 days before and after the tournament. They will also be eligible for free public transport to and from games that they hold tickets for, with special trains for fans put on between the host cities.
In terms of ticket sales, FIFA’s head of ticketing Falk Eller told Press Association Sport he was “extremely happy” with the first phase of sales which closed on Tuesday.
Nearly 750,000 of the 800,000 tickets allocated in the initial offering have been snapped up, with Russian fans buying just over half of those and England sneaking into the top 10 with 12,760 tickets allocated, just behind Australia.
The second phase of sales starts on Tuesday, with up to 2.6million tickets available, and fans registered with the Football Association will be able to buy “supporter ticket” packages, with a 10 per cent fee, to ensure they can see all of England’s group-stage games.
Prices for those games range from about Ã‚Â£80 to Ã‚Â£160, depending on the US dollar/sterling exchange rate. Tickets for the round-of-16 games start at about Ã‚Â£90.