By Mark Gleeson
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African fans will be able to snap up half a million unsold World Cup tickets in cash after FIFA agreed on Wednesday to drop a ruling that they could only be bought online or through a ballot.
The final phase of sales for the month-long tournament beginning in June will start on Thursday with ticket counters in shopping malls in the nine host cities plus a network of popular supermarkets.
Tickets are available for all 64 matches, including the final at Soccer City in Johannesburg on July 11. FIFA previously said the final was sold out, but on Wednesday announced 300 late tickets would be released for the biggest match in world football.
It will be the first time fans can buy 2010 finals tickets over the counter in cash -- the preferred method of purchasing for South African football fans, many of whom are on low incomes.
FIFA had previously insisted on selling tickets through its website on the Internet or in a complicated ballot procedure at a local bank branch.
Many South Africans complained the process excluded people without web access, credit cards or the disposable income to pay for their tickets months in advance.
"For this last phase, we have made a big effort to assist football fans by introducing various additional means to purchase a ticket," said Jerome Valcke, FIFA general secretary said.
"We are committed to facilitating the process for all fans and giving them this last chance to attend the matches and experience the excitement of this first World Cup in Africa."
"We are excited about these new initiatives, which make the process much easier for everyone," he said.
"We have always said that it is important that we make this World Cup more accessible to the people and with the over-the-counter sales, we believe this measure is consistent with the needs of the fans."
Tickets are still well above normal prices for top-level football in South Africa.
A special category of tickets for residents of South Africa sells at $20 but costs escalate drastically in higher categories for better seats and after the first-round group phase. Tickets for premier seats at the final costs $900.
Demand in South Africa had initially been sluggish but the most recent phase saw locals snap up 85 percent of the 240,000 tickets sold between February and the beginning of this month.
FIFA said last week 2.2 million tickets have been sold for the tournament, which kicks off on June 11.