Russia worried by slow ticket sales for Confederations Cup

MOSCOW (AP) Russia's top sports official said Tuesday he is worried by slow ticket sales for the Confederations Cup.

Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is overseeing preparations for the tournament in June and the World Cup next year, said the first-phase sales figure of 211,475 tickets, released by FIFA last week, was below expectations.

A total of 695,000 tickets have been made available for the tournament, which begins on June 17. The second phase of ticket sales starts April 19.

Mutko said ''there are worries about ticket sales'' in comments reported by state news agency R-Sport, adding ''we hope the situation will improve'' after more sales outlets open next week.

Russian fans make up the majority of sales so far, with Chile second with just over 7,000 sold. Other countries taking part include Germany, Portugal and Mexico.

Another concern for Russian officials could be the pitch at the St. Petersburg stadium, which is due to host the final.

Maxim Mitrofanov, CEO of the Zenit St. Petersburg club, said the field's original grass had died and that the club's staff is trying to lay a new field before the stadium hosts its first game April 22 between Zenit and Ural Yekaterinburg.

''It isn't growing in the best way,'' he told St. Petersburg news website Fontanka. Mitrofanov blamed the problem on delays finishing the field's technical systems and a decision to keep the stadium's retractable roof closed.

The stadium was built with a retractable field, which can be rolled outside to get better conditions for growth. However, Mitrofanov said that isn't an option because the World Cup organizing committee has decided to ''build temporary structures'' on the space the field would occupy outside.

The St. Petersburg stadium was hit by repeated delays and cost increases during its construction. It was officially declared complete in December but has required extensive extra work since then.

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