Almost three weeks later than promised, Fifa will on Friday reveal its ticket prices for the 2014 World Cup finals. According to Jérôme Valcke, Fifa's secretary general, the decision to postpone the announcement had nothing to do with the demonstrations taking place at the time in Brazil, where the national team's success in the Confederations Cup was overshadowed by protests about the exorbitant cost of staging next summer's tournament.
Valcke, who cited logistical reasons for Fifa's delay, vowed there will not be a "big difference" from the cost of watching games in South Africa, where seats ranged from £14 (for local residents only) to £630. That will be the least that an increasingly sceptical Brazilian public – many of whom stand to be excluded from their country's biggest party – expect to hear. "The price of tickets is expensive and way beyond the means of many of our poorest citizens," Aldo Rebelo, the Brazilian sports minister, has admitted.
The reality for the majority of football fans travelling from the United Kingdom to Brazil next summer is that stumping up the cash – or, as tends to be the case with Fifa, typing in the credit card number – to get their hands on a ticket to watch one of the 64 matches will be the least of their financial concerns. "We're used to being overcharged at Wembley, let alone anywhere else in the world," says Mark Perryman, a member of Englandfans, the official England supporters' club, and a veteran of four World Cup finals. "But match tickets is one small part of your total expenditure at a World Cup."
Perryman, in fairness, is not counting his chickens when it comes to having an England team to follow in Brazil, and even if Roy Hodgson's side do make it, he predicts the number of fans that follow them could be as low as 4,000. "England have traditionally got one of the biggest travelling supports, but ours has shrunk significantly," he says.
"South Africa 2010, playing a European Championships in Ukraine, the form of the team, the recession – it's definitely affecting the buzz around England. And obviously the Under-21s and the Under-20s this summer hasn't helped either."
While England's involvement will have a significant influence on the numbers that travel from the UK, there will be those who view a World Cup in Brazil – the dream venue for most football fans – as a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is to be enjoyed regardless of the presence of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Joe Hart et al. It will not, however, be cheap. Only two airlines – British Airways and TAM – offer direct flights (one a day) from the UK to Brazil and, as things stand, a return ticket to Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, arriving just before the World Cup starts on 12 June and coming back a fortnight later, at the end of the group stage, will cost in excess of £1,500 with BA and as much as £2,600 with TAM. BA has sold most of its seats but TAM says that cheaper economy seats will become available over the coming months. A connecting flight, using airlines such asas Air France and KLM, brings the cost down to just below four figures.
One of the biggest problems for fans will be deciding where to stay, even after the draw has been made in December. Fifa, in its wisdom, has once again decided against hosting groups in geographical clusters, meaning that players, supporters and officials face the prospect of making long trips across a vast country even before the knockout stage. In Group A, for example, Brazil's opponents will play their first match against the hosts in São Paulo and their second game in Manaus, in the north-west of the country. The distance between the two cities is more than 1,600 miles as the crow flies. It is a four-hour internal flight.
Hotels are already hard to come by in some cities. In Rio de Janeiro there are only a couple of two- and three-star hotels offering rooms during the opening two weeks of the World Cup. The top-end hotels have gone, which suggests Fifa's accommodation agency has again block-booked the best places. As with nearly all major sporting events, there is a premium to pay for a bed while the tournament is taking place. At the eHostel, 300 metres from Copacabana beach, 16 nights in a six-bed dormitory, from 11-27 June, costs £1,417. A studio for three (which includes a set of bunk beds) during the same period, in Praia apartments, 9km from the Maracanã, is available for £7,819.
Getting around the country promises to be another big expense. With no recognised rail network, and car hire or coach travel a non-starter for the longer journeys, , there will be huge demand for internal flights. "We hired a coach in South Africa – it cost us £60,000, which sounds crazy, but you split that between 50 people over 30 days and it was a really cheap way of getting around," Perryman says. "But in Brazil, almost certainly that won't be feasible, so it's the [internal] flights that are really going to be the deal-breakers." Package tours are the alternative for those who would prefer not to travel independently, although the comfort provided by a company taking a lot of the stress out of organising the trip has to be balanced against the cost. Thomson Sport's cheapest deal, which includes return flights and 13 nights B&B in four-star hotels during England's three group matches (assuming they get there), is £4,495.
That price does not include the cost of match tickets and internal flights to and from the games.
Perryman's tip, for anyone thinking of going to the World Cup next summer and looking to do so on a budget, is to leave things as late as possible. "People tend to panic, they book their flight out of Brazil, they book their accommodation and they book their internal flights all in the space of 24 hours of the draw. That's when the prices will be sky high but at least the worry is out of the way. Those who aren't willing to pay through the nose wait until March or April.
"And some people will stay up to at least 100km outside of the host cities and be looking for B&B accommodation – that's what people did in South Africa. The advantage is you will often get a better place to stay and in some cases a more interesting place. Although what I found speaking to some of the independent tour operators who are looking to put a trip together is that they say, depending on which cities you draw, there isn't necessarily anywhere to stay 100km out."
In some ways Brazil sounds like it will be a logistical nightmare next summer, although seasoned World Cup campaigners will argue that working out where to stay and how to get to matches is all part of the fun – especially when compared with watching England.