August 9, 2019 / 5:51 AM / 8 days ago

Rugby: Japan 2019 hopes for record numbers at fanzones

TOKYO (Reuters) - Organisers of next month’s Rugby World Cup in Japan are hoping to set a record for fanzone attendance, with over one million fans expected to use the venues to watch matches during the tournament.

Approximately one million fans used such fanzones four years ago in England but Japan 2019 organisers are confident of surpassing that number during the Sept. 20–Nov. 2 tournament.

There will be 16 fanzones spread out across the 12 host cities, including an 8,000-capacity venue in Yokohama, the city hosting the semi-finals and final.

Over 400,000 foreign fans are expected in Japan for the six-week tournament with many staying for a number of weeks as they soak up the World Cup atmosphere.

Japan does not have a culture of watching sporting events communally, either in large spaces or in pubs, but World Cup organisers are hopeful the fanzones can fill this void for thirsty rugby fans who don’t have match tickets.

“Our fanzones are going to play an important role throughout the tournament,” said Japan 2019 CEO Akira Shimazu in a press release.

“Not only as a meeting place where Japanese and international rugby fans will gather before and after matches, but also where hundreds of thousands of non-ticketed fans will get to experience the magic of Rugby World Cup.”

Despite their optimism, not all games are sold out 42 days before the tournament opener between Japan and Russia in Tokyo.

Organisers say 85 percent of tickets have been sold with the final big batch going on sale on Saturday.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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