Dawn Bauman needed more than five hours and a spreadsheet to fix what FIFA screwed up.
When she, like so many other fans headed to the World Cup in France next month, discovered that tickets bought together weren’t, in fact, together, Bauman sat down to try to make sense of things for those in her group — all 19 of them.
Would this person be OK sitting by themselves in a stadium in a foreign country? The people who at least needed to be close to someone they knew — would being in the same section be enough? Or did they have to be in the same row, hoping someone at the game would be willing to swap seats to get them even closer?
And what to do about the couple with a child?
“We’re re-figuring everything,” Bauman told USA TODAY Sports. “My group of four tickets, I’ll sit by myself, my wife will be by herself and two of our friends will sit by themselves. The rest of our group are ‘relatively close.’
“I don’t know why I should be glad,” Bauman said, after saying she was happy to have worked it out as best she could. “But I’ve seen much worse on Twitter.”
It’s a mess, and one only FIFA could have made.
Every day, millions of tickets are sold for everything from minor league games to international sports extravaganzas, and it almost always goes off without a hitch. People get the seats they paid for, and people who want to sit together do.
Yet the company that French organizers hired to sell tickets, AP2S, botched that most basic of functions. Fans who spent thousands of dollars on tickets alone learned this week that not only might their seats not be together, they might not be remotely close to each other.
Worse, when fans began howling — rightfully so — FIFA and French organizers gave the electronic equivalent of a shrug.
“When you placed your order, a message indicating not all seats would be located next to each other did appear, before confirmation of your purchase,” FIFA said on its official Twitter account for the World Cup. “Unfortunately we will not be able to modify your order.”
Bauman said she and her wife actually did see that message but figured it was a required disclaimer. Like the ones we all ignore when updating the latest version of Apple’s operating system.
FIFA did say it would try to make accommodations for parents with children, given they might be reluctant to leave 8- and 10-year-olds on their own for two hours in a foreign country.
The operative word there, however, being try.
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Sarah Moghtader of Boston called the number FIFA provided Wednesday morning and was told she “really shouldn’t get your hopes up, you probably won’t be seated together.” When Moghtader asked to speak to a supervisor, the person handling the call hung up.
“We have two 8-year-old boys and a 12-year-old girl,” said Moghtader, who purchased nine tickets for the semifinals and final in Lyon, for her and another family, at a cost of $2,025. “You can’t say in the press you’re going to take care of us and not have a process for it.
“I’ve been completely surprised that it doesn’t seem like it bothers FIFA that this happened,” Moghtader added. “There doesn’t seem to be the normal recourse. (With FIFA) it’s, ‘We take your money, we have your money and we don’t care what happens to you.’”
That won’t be a surprise to anyone with even a passing knowledge of FIFA, the ultimate grifters. This, after all, is the same organization that is staging the next men’s World Cup in Qatar, a country with a questionable human rights record but plenty of money to lavish on FIFA’s bigwigs.
But while having a conscience might be too much to ask of FIFA, asking it to exhibit common sense should not be. Tickets purchased together should be allocated together. If they’re not, fix it. Immediately.
FIFA initially tried to pass the debacle off as tickets purchased when the games were close to being sold out. But most of the people who have gone public with their complaints said just the opposite — that they purchased their tickets during pre-sale windows last fall or right when they were offered to the general public.
Highlighting the absurdity, Moghtader said a third family decided to join the trip after she’d already purchased tickets.
That family is the only one whose tickets are all together.
A FIFA spokesman said Wednesday that it was still “looking into” the mess and would provide updates on how it planned to resolve it. Which doesn’t look promising, given the tournament kicks off June 7, a mere 15 days away.
Moghtader said her group is still planning to go to France — in addition to what they’ve spent on tickets, they’ve spent even more on airfare and hotels — but worries they won’t be able to find people willing to swap seats so all of the children in the group will be with an adult.
And even if FIFA does find a solution, what then? Will someone like Bauman get to the stadium to find her random seat is not only random, but now relocated?
Given that fans come to the World Cup from all over, speaking a variety of languages and not necessarily having local cell service, all of this is sure to turn out just fine.
“Yeah,” Bauman said with a sigh. “It just sucks.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.