SA Rugby is doing everything in its power to get fans in the stands when the British and Irish Lions land in South Africa in July. With the tournament set to go ahead as planned, despite all the unknowns in relation to the pandemic, the next major obstacle is fan attendance. It's not only the sale of tickets that SARU are desperate for, but the ancillary sales via merchandising, travel and tourism and pushing the brand that will be lost.
SARU commissioned a study into the economic viability of the tour and it is said that should the games go ahead behind closed doors, without the influx of foreign and local fans, the South African economy stands to lose roughly R6.6 Billion Rand (3.5 million pounds).
The tour is set to open on the 17th of July with the British and Irish Lions facing the Blue Bulls in Pretoria, before taking on various domestic sides. The tour culminates after three tests against the Springboks with the final game scheduled for the 07th of August 2021.
No one is more desperate to see fans filling the stadiums than SA Rugby President, Mark Alexander as he knows both the financial and sentimental value the tour holds. With the governing body having already shed 1.2 billion last year due to the pandemic, they can hardly afford further set backs.
"I'll do anything we need to do to get (supporters into stadiums). It's a process and you don't know how long that process will take, that's the problem. We need to have this tournament (the Lions tour with fans) in South Africa and if we don't, there could be 10,000 jobs lost through retrenchments."
Whilst the roll out of the vaccine is posing a great obstacle to fan attendance, things such as crowd funding, crowd size reduction, pre game testing and vaccination passports for attendance have all been suggested.
There is still time for regulations to ease up, the uncertainty surrounding the competition is definitely hampering the hype that would normally surround the momentous occasion that only rolls around once every 12 years. South Africa and the rugby world at large are all eager to see the Springboks take the field once more.