Mark Gleeson

Well done Cape Town fans

2010-08-30 08:09
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

Top marks to the people of Cape Town who pitched so numerously, and with much enthusiasm, for the opening salvoes of the new Premier Soccer League campaign.

Shame, at the same time, on the folk of Durban for a tardy turnout on Sunday at their new World Cup stadium for the derby that got the same competition underway in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

The contrast could not have been starker and offers valuable lessons in which direction South African football should go, seeking to ride the wave of post World Cup hype.

There is great potential to attract many new people to the domestic game, as witnessed in the Mother City, but it should not be at the expense of the core following that has been going to football games for decades.

The current soccer-watching populace can be split into several categories, principally:

*Hardened football followers, mostly black male
*A growing number of middle class fans, from across the racial spectrum, who have a genuine interest in, and knowledge of, South African football, but who go to games sporadically
*People who have grown up in households, again mainly black, that always had a passion for the game but who themselves only go to the big matches
*A new grouping of mostly Indian and white spectators who were pleasantly surprised by the good time they had at the World Cup and might be interested in going to a local soccer game, even if they haven’t really cared about the PSL before

The PSL seems desperate to attract the latter three groups, representing as they do an affluent market, but have to be cautious they are not alienating their core market at the same time.

The two match days at World Cup stadiums over the weekend showed how carefully each separate occasion must be marketed.

In Cape Town on Friday, the opportunity to go back, or for many for the first time, to the new World Cup stadium and watch two well marketed games of football, ensured a staggering 45 000-strong crowd. Just under half bought their tickets less than 48 hours before kick-off, which shows the value of good pre-match publicity.

Durban, also using an iconic new venue and with a tasty derby on offer, pulled about 5 000 on Sunday. Their stadium was eerily empty and the event fell flat.

In Cape Town they can seek to develop a potential market of new fans but Durban must rather look at taking the game back to the people, using township venues rather than the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

AmaZulu are a club with roots in KwaMashu and a healthy support in the area. But by moving to the city and seeking to attract a new crowd, they have fallen flat in between their core support and a poor turn out of prospective new fans. Those new spectators who did bother to pitch up will not have been inspired to come again as AmaZulu and Maritzburg rattled round a cavernous stadium devoid of any atmosphere.

But it was some night in Cape Town, a big success and hopefully the start of many more Friday night double-header attractions. From being a spectator backwater just a few years ago, is Cape Town now challenging for the status of the nation’s football capital?

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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