SA police fire rubber bullets as stadium workers stage protest

South African police were forced to fire rubber bullets and stun grenades to break up a protest by hundreds of stadium staff unhappy at their wages in the first major unrest of the football World Cup.

As organisers promised to investigate why thousands of seats were empty at weekend matches, they also struggled to contain a backlash against the increasing criticism generated by the vuvuzela horns which have become the symbol of the tournament.

Danny Jordaan, chairman of the local organising committee, said he would consider banning the horns if they drowned out national anthems although a spokesman later said they were “here to stay.”

The protests in Durban broke out around midnight shortly after the match between Germany and Australia as around 400 stadium staff protested what they said was a pay cut from 250 rand (US$33) to 190 per day outside the main gate.

Police broke up the protest at the stadium, but about 200 continued protesting on a nearby street, where rubber bullets and stun grenades were fired to break up the demonstration, she said.

Durban municipality, which owns the stadium, said that the stewarding at the stadium had been subcontracted by FIFA and the local organising committee to another company.

The tournament was also facing a raft of negative headlines over ranks of empty seats which were spotted at some of the less glamorous ties over the weekend.

Around 8,000 seats were empty during Saturday's match between South Korea and Greece while there were also gaping holes at Sunday's game between Slovenia and Algeria in the northern city of Polokwane.

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