Mark Gleeson

Ticket prices a costly issue

2009-03-11 08:41
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

Both the government and FIFA were in a tizz last week over the issue of the marketing of both the upcoming Confederations Cup and Soccer World Cup.

Jerome Valcke, world football’s governing body’s general secretary, bemoaned a lack of marketing bunting en route from the airport to his swanky Sandton hotel.

The government says it wants to see more marketing and our beleaguered Organising Committee said they would soon be announcing a promotions plan, as if it has just hit them that they need to do something about publicising the event with some 450 days left before the big show.

The whole polemic is really around the fact the ticket sales are not as sharp as had been hoped. The Confederations Cup sales are, according to insiders, poor and the World Cup figures are a tenth of what they were for the 2006 finals in Germany.

The solution, according to, FIFA is more posters; the government reckons more TV adverts and who knows what the local organising committee has planned. Not much probably.

All are making the assumption we need to hype up the event, or that South Africans are blissfully ignorant of the upcoming World Cup.

They are, of course, missing the entire point. The reason why the tickets are not selling has nothing to do with posters, flags or ads. It is because they are too expensive and the whole system is too complicated.

Africa’s first World Cup is threatening to be an event with not too many Africans in the stands because the common man cannot afford the prices being asked.

Nor is the purchasing system suited to the local market, where the majority of tickets have to be sold to make it a viable event.

Major event

FIFA have argued the World Cup is a premium sports event and the prices reflect such status. That I agree with, but then why bring it to Africa?

A first World Cup on this continent was sold on the basis that FIFA wanted to bring a major event to the continent to allow its people a first hand look at the galaxy of world footballing superstars.

Making Africa a full fledged member of the world footballing club was among the many platitudes and seductive inducements we were led to believe.

But what is the point of having a party in the neighbourhood, but then not inviting the neighbours. The ticket prices are not tailored to the South African market even though our fiscus is paying for the massive infra structure requirements.

The ordinary South African football fan will not get to go unless he is lucky enough to get one of the free tickets. But even the subsided tickets at R140 are too expensive.

Then there is the actual process of going about buying the ticket. Brilliantly formulated and incredibly smart from FIFA but out of sync with the South African market.

It might be cutting edge tech stuff but it does not resonate with the local market. I suspect FIFA might yet be forced to sell tickets just day before World Cup matches at discounted prices to ensure decent crowds at the game.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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