Legacy use seems quite challenging for the Tatar host stadium of Russia’s 2018 World Cup. Yesterday Rubin was watched by only 3,289 people, leaving almost 42,000 seats empty.
Opened in 2013, Kazan Arena is the first stadium earmarked for the 2018 World Cup that was put into use. But while Rubin was widely expected to become a powerhouse in Russian football, the club’s story at the Arena is problematic.
First the team were unable to play home games there during the first two years, losing the crucial time when the stadium’s ‘wow factor’ was in effect. Now their regular matchday attendance is below 9,000 per game, less than a fifth of actual capacity.
Yesterday a different factor was in play as record low turnout of 3,289 people was seen at Kazan Arena for the Arsenal Tula game. That’s not an unusual incident in Russian football, harsh winters often drastically impact numbers in the stands. And it was -15 yesterday after all, with the game ending late into the Wednesday evening.
Filling just 7% of the capacity is a new low, but wouldn’t be significant if it was only this one time. Except it wasn’t. Rubin played 9 home games this season so far and only three times broke through the 10,000 barrier, reaching the best turnout at 18,971 people in mid-November’s game with FK Rostov.
The Rostov game brought new kind of controversy as a report by SNTat.ru suggested school children were forced to buy tickets in order to fill the stands. Rubin deny any such claims but testimonies by teachers suggest there was an order from their superiors to either push the discounted tickets onto children and their parents (reportedly 10 per class) or else the teachers would have to pay for them.
Still, the 18,971 figure seems inflated regardless of how the school sale programme was conducted. Even with significant numbers of soldiers invited photos and videos of the game suggest the attendance wasn’t as close to half-capacity as Rubin claim. The north stand and all corners were sealed off, while all upper sections were nearly empty, with only the military contingent standing out.