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Technical problems have delayed the launch of tickets sales over the Internet for the 2002 World Cup to fans in the host countries Japan and Korea.

Football fans in Korea and Japan are unable to buy tickets online after Fifa closed down the Web site, FifaWorldCup.com, while technicians work to fix unspecified technical problems.

In a statement Fifa said: "Fifa took the decision to delay the start of the sale in Korea and Japan on the internet on the grounds that the system must be foolproof and the interests of the consumer must always be taken into account.

"Technicians are working around the clock to fix the system but unfortunately, no timeline can be given at this point in time."

This morning the Web site was brought back online but did not include the facility for fans in Japan and Korea, who are able to apply for tickets on more privileged terms, to apply for tickets over the Internet. Instead fans of the host nation who want to buy online will have to compete for tickets with everyone else and apply for through the "International ticketing" scheme - which is available online.

Taken together these factors suggest the delay in getting the online ticketing system up and running is down to delay in getting ecommerce software or digital certificate technology in place, rather than the more traditional reason of underestimating demand on setting up a Web site with inadequate servers or insufficient bandwidth available.

Tickets for the World Cup went on sale today. Around three million tickets will be sold for the tournament, with almost half of tickets allocated for sale in the two host nations and the other 1.5 million available international by telephone, postal application or (eventually) over the Internet.

We tried the official premium-rate telephone line and found it a right pain, it didn't recognise our fax number. If you need an application form for the World Cup your best bet is probably to email sales@fifa-tickets.com. Good luck!

Despite the problems the Japanese seem to be doing a better job or organising tickets sales than the organisers of the last World Cup in France. International fans had to apply for tickets for France 98 over the phone to a hopelessly understaffed call centre. On the day the "service" opened chaos predictably ensued as international phones lines were jammed, and the Dutch phone system fell over completely. ®

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