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Springboks blame empty seats on downturn



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South African rugby chiefs on Friday rebutted claims by the British and Irish Lions that high ticket prices were behind poor attendances during the 10-week tour.

“Many factors have been at play, not least of which is the global economic downturn,” SA Rugby’s acting managing director Andy Marinos said, adding that the Lions series was also competing against the Confederations Cup and came in the wake of the rescheduled IPL cricket.

“If we knew the general economic environment against which the tour was to be played we would have re-examined some of the ticket prices.

“But when we consulted the hosting provinces and our ticketing agency a year ago there was general consensus that these prices were appropriate. The Lions were aware of the prices and at no time suggested they were excessive.

“No one has been spared the effects of the downturn. British and Irish Lions Limited requested an average of 11,000 tickets for each of the Tests and were unable to sell out their allocation.”

The Lions, who tour South Africa every 12 years, played out their warm-up games to half-full stadiums, while there were even a few thousand empty seats during the first Test in Durban last Saturday.

Tickets for the first Test were on sale for 1,140 rand (99 euros), while South Africa’s games in the TriNations are usually priced at 125-450 rand (11-39 euros).

At Newlands on Tuesday, tickets to watch the Emerging Boks take on the cream of the four home nations were going for 230 rand (20 euros), a massive increase from normal Super 14 home match prices of between 20-50 rand (1.75-4.30 euros).

But Marinos said that many “loyal rugby supporters” had been able to access Test tickets at prices considerably lower than the public sale price of 1,140 rand.

“Sales for the Tests have been strong and we would have sold out in Durban as well if we had had unwanted tickets returned from stakeholders when we had expected to receive them,” he said.

“The average match attendance for all 10 fixtures is predicted to be around 35,000 – higher than for either of the previous two Lions tours.

“We will have had 99 percent attendance for the first two Tests and crowds of more than 34,000 for the three matches either side, which is a very positive return.”

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