Updated: Apr 7, 2022
This week the Blue Bulls, in an attempt to fill the stands for their big clash against Irish side Ulster, reduced the price of some tickets to just R25. Whilst stadiums in SA are currently limited to a 50% crowd under current regulations, the Loftus faithful showed up in numbers, with the official tally of 19 436 fans in attendance, setting a record for the URC this season.
Loftus is capable of hosting a crowd size of 51 762, whilst the other URC home stadiums boast 52 000 seats for Kings Park, 55 000 at Cape Town Stadium and a whopping 62 567 for Ellis Park. Once the restrictions are lifted and as interest in the URC grows from a South African stand point, there is no reason why the record crowd at Loftus this weekend can't be blown out of the water.
The enthusiasm of the South African fan has never really been in doubt, we love our rugby and nothing is better than watching your team get one over their opponents. However the most obvious obstacle to filling the stadiums has been and is the price of the tickets. At the moment you may be able to snap up a ticket for R80, these tickets are right in the corners of the stadium, with little view of the action and are hardly worth it unless the fixture is against top tier opposition.
Looking away from the URC and Currie Cup, the price of some of the Springbok tickets for the incoming Welsh tour as well as the Rugby Championship are just exorbitant. Paying over R1000 to watch your national side play (and these seats are behind the posts) is just not realistic. It is the countries national side and with prices like that, some people will never ever get the chance to watch their national team play.
I honestly don't know how SARU can justify charging people these prices to see the Boks play, being fully aware of the fact that the only other opportunity for watching the Springboks play would be with a DSTV premium subscription coming in at just under the R1000 as well. How is any of that assisting in making the national side accessible? I could maybe understand having pricier tickets, if fans were able to see the team play on SABC for example but they can't.
The price of tickets mean that people will rather watch the game at home, having as many people as they'd like over whilst being able to have a braai and drink. If there is to be a realistic push at filling the stadiums on a regular basis then a reduction in ticket prices is surely the first step in achieving this. Alternatively, a proper loyalty program should be explored in order to reward those who attend and ensure affordability in the long term.
The debate around ticket prices whether at international level or domestic level have been a hot topic for years. Most famously championed by former coach turned punt-it Nick Mallett in 1999 when he commented on the topic and was later ousted for bringing the sport into disrepute. Yes, we understand rugby is a business but then surely the mathematics behind it should lend to business decisions in the boardroom?
I am no mathematician, but a full stadium with cheaper tickets surely lends to better income than a quarter of a stadium at current prices. Getting the fans to choose a drive to the stadium, to pay for tickets and parking, food, beverages and even team paraphernalia over a braai at home and watching the game on their own tv will take some doing, a reduction in the price of tickets is surely the place to start.