South Africa looks forward to Lions Rugby Tour to avoid financial crisis

Although the host country’s coronavirus epidemic continues to escalate, forcing the entire Springboks to self-isolate, the British and Irish rugby teams will play the first game of a six-week South Africa trip on Saturday.

The four-year tour of the Lions, composed of the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, is the most anticipated game in this year’s rugby schedule and one of the most profitable events in the sport’s schedule.

Although concerns about participating in top sports in the pandemic raised questions about the tour, the organizers decided to continue with three international matches and five warm-up matches.

The tour not only provides revenue for the four rugby leagues that share Lions ownership, but also for the host country. After 18 months of financial distress and the devastation caused by the pandemic, this cash injection is particularly needed.

According to data from the New Zealand Rugby Team, the last Lions tour was to New Zealand in 2017, which brought 245 million New Zealand dollars in revenue to the country’s GDP. The company’s profit that year was 33.4 million New Zealand dollars.

Steve Martin, the global CEO of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, said: “They will do everything they can to achieve this goal.” Use it.”

However, as a sign of tour anxiety, the game will be played in an empty stadium. This means there are no paying home supporters, and there are no thousands of British and Irish fans who usually go to watch the Lions series and provide a huge boost to the host country’s economy. In 2017, more than 342,000 seats were filled, and nearly 26,000 tourists visited New Zealand.

In Murrayfield’s warm-up match against Japan last month, Ian Henderson of the British and Irish Lions jumped up during a scrimmage © Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

Mark Alexander, the chairman of the domestic governing body, the South African Rugby Union, told local media this week that the Lions Tour will continue, but “when we are in crisis, it is ridiculous to receive spectators.”

However, in the devastating third wave of impact on the country’s economic center, Gauteng, all South African club and amateur rugby matches were suspended.

In recent days, South Africa has recorded 13,000 new cases per day, and hospitals are overcrowded. Epidemiologists believe that this wave is driven by the Delta variant.

On the day the Lions arrived this week, South Africa entered the second most severe level of lockdown, which included a night curfew and a ban on alcohol sales.

Brian Moore, a broadcaster and former England forward who played for the Lions in 1989 and 1993, said the authorities were forced to make difficult decisions.

“Either it is a version of this version, or there is nothing at all,” he told the Financial Times. “Especially considering South Africa’s statement about its financial situation, it almost has to proceed.”

Springbok players during the captain of the South African National Men's Rugby Team running in Johannesburg
South African players training in Johannesburg © Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Lions believe that testing, social distancing, wearing masks, disinfection and no fans will help protect their “biosecurity foam.” The Lions said: “The South African government and our own medical advisory team are happy to continue touring.”

Due to the crowded schedule of this sport, rescheduling the game will be a costly and challenging task. The organizers also refused to move to the UK because fans can watch the Euro 2020 football match and Wimbledon Tennis Championships in the UK this week.

Moore said this would be the best solution: “Everyone’s safety must be paid attention to. [and] Unfortunately, this is not a given. “

But he added, “If they can launch a compelling and competitive series, it will show the strength of the Lions brand.”

The preparations of the home team were also disrupted. Their last game was the 2019 World Cup final victory over England. After three players tested positive for the virus, the Springboks were forced to cancel training last weekend and self-quarantine their team, although training has since resumed.

Even if the Lions Tour continues, SARU CEO Jurie Roux has warned that football in this sport-loving country is walking a “financial tightrope.”

It cut costs after the pandemic hit, which limited its net loss in 2020 to 7.9 million rand, although broadcast and sponsorship revenue fell from a projected 1.3 billion rand to 669 million rand.

It expects revenue this year to return to R1 billion, although this is still lower than the level before the pandemic.

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