SAfrica's World Cup legacy: Higher ticket prices

Published Jul. 20, 2010 5:05 p.m. ET

The initial World Cup legacy of staging the first World Cup in Africa is rising ticket prices and an uncertain future for the new stadiums in South Africa.

Just 10 days after Spain's victory in the final at the 94,700-seat Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, the chief executive of the South African Football Association told a parliamentary committee on sport and recreation that soccer had challenges to overcome to keep its world-class venues in use and profitable.

''It is nice to tell people we filled up a stadium, but how much do we charge? $5?'' Leslie Sedibe said Tuesday. ''People need to understand ... we will have to revisit these issues around ticket prices if we are serious about development, because that is where the money is going to come from.''

The South African government spent an estimated $1.3 billion building and upgrading the 10 stadiums used for the monthlong tournament.

Sticking to traditionally low ticket prices for South Africa's low-income soccer fans will mean it is less likely to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the modern arenas.

Sedibe said the new stadiums would cost at least $65,000 to hire for a day, without security costs, and charging low prices for local games would mean ''there is something wrong with the economy.''

More commercially successful sports in South Africa like rugby and cricket could ensure the stadiums are properly utilized. Many of the facilities have no home team and no regular source of income.


At Tuesday's committee meeting, parliament member Graham Mackenzie urged SAFA to meet with rugby and cricket bosses.

''We have magnificent stadiums and at the moment they are ranked No. 1 in the world,'' Mackenzie said. ''If we engaged other sports, we can ensure we don't have a legacy of 'white elephants.'''

South Africa's rugby world champion Springboks are set to face New Zealand in a Tri-Nations game at Soccer City on Aug. 21. Most of the tickets will cost $46 or more, and the South African Rugby Union is expecting an 88,000 sellout.

Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium - also built for the World Cup - will host a Twenty20 cricket match between South Africa and India in early 2011 after an agreement between the city council and Cricket South Africa.

It's hoped similar deals may be struck at Cape Town's 70,000-seat Green Point Stadium. But they appear few and far between.

Many of the country's long-standing provincial rugby and cricket teams are reluctant to move away from their home stadiums, which are cheaper to run.

Even the country's two biggest soccer clubs, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, have said they will stay at smaller, more manageable stadiums in the township of Soweto - and not at the nearby Soccer City.

It could also prove difficult to attract big crowds to the new stadiums in the more remote northern cities of Rustenburg, Polokwane and Nelspruit.

The World Cup afterglow is already fading for some as the rising cost of the biggest soccer event becomes apparent to a country still wrestling with widespread poverty.

South Africa's Student Congress has already criticized the World Cup as a waste of money.

''We could have used the same money, energy, zeal and enthusiasm to provide water, electricity, houses and free education for millions of poor South Africans,'' SASCO president Mbulelo Mandlana said.

Meanwhile, the shoes of South Africa midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala that were used to score the first goal at the World Cup opening match against Mexico on June 11 will go on display as part of a historic monument at SAFA headquarters.

''(The shoes) represent hope and they represent that we can deliver on a world stage,'' Sedibe said.