Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Atlanta stadium 500

Invest in the fans too

Gone are the days of just expecting fans to turn up says TANK LANNING, who suggests an investment in the stadium experience as fair return for the current ticket prices.  

Tank Lanning

I am guessing that if the stadium hosting the Springbok vs All Black Test in October looked like this, we would not be complaining about paying R950.00 for a ticket:

Atlanta stadium 1

Instead we get drab and dreary Newlands.

Not only does it come second to the stadium down the road, another factor that irritates fans, but when compared to this puppy – the stunning $1.5bn Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta – it just magnifies how badly we have let the stadium experience slip in South Africa.

Complete with an amazing Ancient Rome inspired roof which can be retracted inside 11 minutes, this state-of-the-art sporting and entertainment 71 000 seater was opened in the heart of Atlanta last month, and will play host to the city’s NFL and MLS franchises.

It features a 335m long, 360-degree screen/scoreboard! Compare that to the cell phone screen currently in place at Newlands.

And the designers clearly had me in mind when they added extra width to their seats, and added more beer taps – used to pour the liquid into the cup that gets delivered to your seat, together with your burger or boerie roll ordered on the Wi-Fi network via an app on your phone.

It’s so easy to blame poor attendances on the great TV experience now in place, but when last did a South African venue invest in the live stadium experience?

That said, I tend to agree with Netwerk24 columnist Stephen Nell, who reckons the WPRU have come in for a fair bit of unfair criticism around the pricing of their tickets for the Test.

Last year, SA Rugby required an average guarantee of R8 million in order to host a Test match. Western Province CEO Paul Zacks said that, to secure the Test against New Zealand, they had to pay close on 75% more than unions had paid to host the French in June. One can therefore assume that WP are in for around R12m to R14m for the privilege of having the All Blacks visit Cape Town this year.

With only 21 000 tickets to sell, given that the rest of the 47 659 tickets have already been allocated to season-ticket holders, box tickets, SARU, sponsors and the clubs (yep, around 100 of them all get first dibs on 20 tickets each), WP would need to charge more than R650 per ticket just to cover the guarantee to SA Rugby.

And as Zacks says, if comparing ticket prices with those offered at Ellis Park (which can seat 62 000) for the French Test (where 55 820 attended the game), then WP would have to set the price at R1 125 (as opposed to R950) to reap the equivalent gate receipts taken by Ellis Park’s top price of R650.

As an aside, NFL ticket prices for the 2017 season average $172 a ticket, an increase of six percent year-on-year. After their recent success, the New England Patriots will be charging on average of $380 per ticket this year!

It’s about rands and cents after all and, if demand is going to outweigh supply (something I would bet my house on for the All Blacks Test), then WP have every right to charge the prices they have announced.

There would be a whole lot less grumbling – and my word there has been a fair amount of that – had there been some sort of investment in the stadium experience in Cape Town.

Long gone are the days of just expecting people to turn up. Sure there are many bills to pay in the professional era, but in choosing not to invest in the fan experience, you are cutting off your most important revenue stream, the gate.

Here’s a clip showcasing the Atlanta’s state-of-the-art stadium:

Come on SA, get with it …

Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...

One Comment

  1. Newlands in desperate need of an upgrade to the TV media system at the stadium. 1 teeny tiny ‘big’ screen?!?! there should be one in every corner!