Johannesburg - A Soweto rugby administrator says offers of discounted tickets for township residents to attend South Africa’s historic match against New Zealand at the National Stadium (formerly Soccer City) next month was “an insult”.
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The South African Rugby Union (SARU) said in a statement on Thursday that 5 000 tickets costing R100 each for the first-ever rugby match at the venue of the FIFA World Cup final would go on sale to Soweto residents on Monday.
The price of all but 9 000 of the iconic stadium’s 88 000 seats has been set at R500, with a first phase of 44 000 tickets selling out within 48 hours last week.
“I think 5 000 tickets is an insult,” Soweto Rugby Club secretary Zola Ntlokoma said. “This is a community of close to two million people and I think we deserve better. We are rugby people and 5 000 tickets are not much compared to the stadium’s capacity. Maybe they could have given us 20 000.
“We have been marginalised for so long that we deserve such opportunities. We showed the outside world during the World Cup that we are civilised, modern people and that we grab any opportunity that comes our way and run with it. We in Soweto are trendsetters and when we sneeze, the whole country catches the flu.”
Ntlokoma admitted the club, which pulled out of the local leagues two years ago after what it said were ongoing racist outbursts against its players, was “not on good terms” with the local Golden Lions Rugby Union, who are organising the Test. “If there is some sort of benefit from hosting the match I don’t think they will pass it onto us,” he said. “We are operating from hand to mouth and have to rely on good samaritans in order to survive.”
“We are starting a rugby culture from scratch but people in this township are rugby people,” he said. “When the Springboks won the 2007 World Cup, they paraded the trophy through our streets on a rainy day but still the people still came out to show their passion for rugby.”
Golden Lions president Kevin de Klerk said there had been “an overwhelming response in the Soweto community” to his province’s decision to move the match from the 60 000-seater Ellis Park, which hosted seven World Cup matches but whose unsafe location in downtown Johannesburg has seen low attendances in recent years.
“We’ve shown a lot of goodwill by releasing 5 000 tickets at a low cost to get them to come,” said De Klerk. SARU’s statement coincided with a South African Football Association (SAFA) announcement on Thursday that all 88 000 tickets to Bafana Bafana’s friendly international at Soccer City against World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana on August 11 would cost just R50 – ten times less than for the rugby fixture.
In a country in which R500 represents a week’s earnings for the average worker, such a discrepancy is sure to reignite a long-standing debate around ticket prices to major sporting events. Current Italy rugby coach Nick Mallett was fired as Springbok head coach in 2001 shortly after he publicly criticised the price of that year’s Tri-Nations tickets.
The cost of attending next month’s rugby Test at Soccer City is also more than 350 percent higher than the R140 it cost South Africans to attend group matches at the same venue during the FIFA World Cup.