Salvador centre. FIFA said there were no major incidents of robbery (INSIDER)

(WFI) FIFA has yet to fully explain why there were swathes of empty seats at the Spain-Holland match.

A ticketing mix-up appears to be one reason. Tickets reportedly appeared online on last week but people unable to buy them.

FIFA confirmed at its daily press conference in Rio’s Maracana stadium that only 48,000 of the 51,900 seats were filled.

Saint-Clair Milesi, the Brazil 2014 organising committee spokesman, insisted that the assigned seating plan had worked but admitted only that there a “few problems” online.

There was no response from FIFA to INSIDER’s inquiry.

Meanwhile, FIFA said it was aware of reports stating that some Dutch fans were robbed in the main square in Salvador before last night’s match.

Milesi said the LOC had received reports of pickpocketing “but not major incidents. We have full confidence in the security in place.”

Tickets Update

A total of 2.97 million tickets have now been sold for the month-long tournament; 11,250 are still to be snapped up, FIFA’s head of media Delia Fischer said.

The ticket collection system was working well at airports and other venues, she added.

On TV audiences, FIFA reports that Germany had the biggest TV audience for the World Cup opener, Brazil’s 3-1 win over Croatia, with 15.9m viewers or almost two thirds of the available national reach.

In the UK, 10.7m people tuned in for coverage, 6.4m more than the 2010 World Cup opener in South Africa.

Pitch Worries in Manaus

Two days after the head groundsman at the Arena da Amazonia raised major concerns about the state of the pitch ahead of today’s for England’s big match and Italy, FIFA denied it would be an issue for players.

Carlos Botella was quoted by the Daily Telegraph saying the brown, spotty pitch was in “bad shape”. Yesterday, it was said to be “playable” as workers reportedly used green dye on the brown dead areas to make it look good for today’s clash.

Brazil 2014 spokesman Milesi told the press conference today that the pitch was in “good condition”, although “burned a little bit in certain spots”

“Our specialists guarantee the pitch is good. The spectacle will not be compromised. Now it’s up to the players,” he said.

FIFA Probes Argentina Banner

FIFA today warned fans they faced punishment if political banners are unfurled at World Cup matches.

Milesi said: “It’s written on back of the ticket what people can bring into stadium. Banners with religious or political messages are not allowed It also compromises the view [for other fans].”

The warning comes after FIFA last

night launched an investigation into an incident last week in which Argentina’s players held up the banner bearing the slogan ‘Las Malvinas son Argentinas’, (‘the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina’) before the team’s friendly against Slovenia.

FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings, saying the Argentinian players action was a breach of art. 60 of the FIFA Stadium and Security Regulations (“Prevention of provocative and aggressive actions”) and art. 52 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (“Team Misconduct”).

“The Argentina FA has been invited to provide its position to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, together with any documentary evidence it might deem appropriate. FIFA will communicate any updates on the proceedings in due course,” the FIFA statement said.

Fireworks Probe

FIFA is investigating a security breach at Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba in which fireworks were thrown onto the pitch during Chile’s game with Australia.

Officials said it was “unacceptable” and said “everything is being discussed to become even more rigorous [on security]”.

FIFA Ban Won’t Affect Beckenbauer TV Role

FIFA’s 90-day suspension of German football legend Franz Beckenbauer from all football-related activities will not impact his work as a TV pundit back in Germany.

Spokesman said the ban did not cover his job as a World Cup pundit for any German TV channel.

Beckebauer said today that he would not be traveling to Brazil because he was not welcome by FIFA.

The 1974 World Cup winner, a former FIFA Executive Committee member was banned on Friday for failing to cooperate in the ethics investigation into alleged bribery in the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar.

Maracana’s World Cup Legacy

A spokesman for Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana, site of the World Cup final on July 13, today spoke about the business plan for Brazil’s most famed sporting venue.

The official from Odebrecht, part of a consortium that manages the Maracana, said it would take about 12 years to pay back the return on investment in the stadium’s makeover for the World Cup.

The revamp is estimatyed to have cost more than $500m.

The Odebrecht spokeman said the stadium management would transform the venue into an attractive destination for family entertainment. Other sports and non-sports events would also be staged, with new restaurants and bars helping to produce additional revenue streams.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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