South Africa: Rugby, soccer must pay for stadiums
South Africa has spent roughly R43bn to host the Soccer World Cup. This includes building/upgrading a number of stadia and upgrading infrastructure. As nice as it is to host a tournament of this magnitude, what isn’t nice is the monetary responsibility that is foisted on the host after everyone has left their shores. In South Africa’s case, the country can ill afford the luxury of carrying so much debt when there are so many indigent people in the country. The sheer wastage of money on a tournament that lasts 4 weeks is astounding (R10bn/week). The country will be left with a huge debt from the tournament as well as the constant up-keep of the stadia. But, never fear, the resourceful government is now expecting rugby teams to come to the party and re-locate their teams to these new white elephants. The Springboks are already scheduled to head into Black Soweto to play their next test against the All Blacks – what a travesty. Rugby teams who already have contracts and/or own their own stadiums are now expected to help out the soccer fraternity to cover the massive debt that is owned by the SA tax payer (there are roughly 5 million tax payers out of the +50 million population). Makes perfect sense….if you’re an ANC nut-job.
South Africa must persuade its top rugby teams to use the new World Cup stadiums if the impressive infrastructure is to remain sustainable, top local officials have said.
But while the world champion Springboks are set to play their archrivals, the New Zealand All Blacks, at Soccer City next month, other rugby sides are reluctant to move from their homes to the new stadiums, indicating tough prospects ahead for the future upkeep of the new venues.
“I think that clearly there will have to be good balance of both football and rugby together to ensure proper use of the stadiums,” said Danny Jordaan, the chief organiser of South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup.
“The premier soccer league also needs to relook at the profile of its teams and make them more attractive to all sectors of the population,” he said.
Six new venues were built for the month-long World Cup (June 11-July 11), including a complete overhaul of Soccer City. Four other venues were renovated, three of them traditional rugby stadiums.
The South African Rugby Union are to this week announce they’ll host the August 21 Test against New Zealand at Soccer City, the first time a rugby match will be played at the stadium, which hosts next Sunday’s World Cup final.
“It is going to be easier for some cities than for others to make their stadiums works but there must be engagement with all stakeholders,” Jordaan told Reuters.
Private operators have been appointed to run the stadiums in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg after the World Cup while tenders for stadium management companies to handle the stadiums in Durban and Polokwane are due out soon.
“There are a lot of opportunities that could be exploited by stadium operators,” said Ndavhe Ramakuela, who heads the 2010 office of the Polokwane municipality.
“Football clubs are keen, for example, to come and use our stadium on a regular basis.”
But Polokwane does not have its own local team, the nearest based in Pretoria some two hours drive away.
Nor does it have a rugby franchise, although the Super 14 champions Blue Bulls, usually based at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld, have hosted minor matches in Polokwane in the past.
It raises fears incidental use will not be enough to avoid the stadium becoming a ‘white elephant’.
Nelspruit is another city with neither a football nor rugby team and the future of its new stadium is uncertain.
Municipal officials previously told Reuters they would continue to run the Mbombela Stadium and would seek to expand it into a multi-sports arena.
In Cape Town, the Stormers have already rejected enticements to move from Newlands, the city’s rugby home for more than a century, to the Green Point Stadium, now being run by a joint venture company, half owned by Stade de France.
Durban’s Sharks are set to continue playing at King’s Park, the 55,000-seater stadium right next door to the new Moses Mabhida Stadium.
In both cases the rugby unions own, or have long term leases, on their stadiums and are not willing to risk becoming tenants.
But Cape Town and Durban’s top soccer sides have committed to playing in the new venues when the local season starts next month, albeit at a favorable rental.
“The strategy for all these new stadiums needs to be cleverly thought out if they are to be sustainable,” consultant George Stainton told Reuters. “You also don’t want to lose their iconic appeal.”
“A lot of work now has to be come in this area,” added Jordaan.