FIFA has launched an investigation after thousands of empty seats were visible during the 2018 World Cup game between Egypt and Uruguay despite reports ahead of the encounter that the match had almost sold out.

According to The Times, the 33,061-capacity stadium in Yekaterinburg had sold all but 783 tickets, but there were as many as 6,000 empty seats.

Organisers and the governing body could be faced with further embarrassments from empty seats as the tournament progresses with a third of the group matches still not sold out.

A FIFA spokesman said, according to The Times: “We can confirm that 32,278 tickets have been allocated for the match between Egypt and Uruguay in Yekaterinburg. The stadium capacity is 33,061. The fact that the current attendance doesn’t reflect the amount of allocated tickets can be due to different factors, which FIFA is currently investigating.”

On Friday, the day of the game, fans watching from home took to Twitter to express their surprise at the sea of empty seats in the stadium, despite reports of a sell-out.

British columnist and journalist Sid Lowe tweeted: “Woah, that’s a lot of empty seats, isn’t it?”

World Soccer tweeted: “Empty seats are incredibly visible in the match between Egypt and Uruguay.”

There were also empty seats in St Petersburg for Iran v Morocco, where tickets remained unsold in all seating categories up until kick-off.

FIFA has suggested that the release of an extra 120,000 tickets last week might be partly responsible for the empty seats, rather than a lack of public interest. The FIFA ticketing website will remain open until the day of the final on July 15.

Image: Tsutomu Takasu