2010 World Cup wake-up call
Jan 23, 2010 9:33 PM | By Karen Van Rooyen and Bienne Huisman
Local organisers are getting jittery amid international criticism of the cost of travelling to the tournament
Travelling to South Africa for the World Cup is only possible for rich European businessmen
South Africans banking on a flood of international soccer fans to boost the local hospitality industry during this year's World Cup may be in for a rude awakening.
Travel packages of up to R100,000 for European and South American fans have triggered warnings that Africa's first World Cup may not draw the numbers initially expected.
With 3-million tickets available for the tournament - which will see 32 nations compete for the ultimate soccer glory - local organisers are getting increasingly jittery amid international criticism of the cost of travelling to the tournament.
Ticket sales abroad have been fairly poor so far.
All-inclusive packages on offer by foreign travel agencies accredited by Fifa's ticketing agency, Match, are proving to be very costly.
An England fan wishing to travel to South Africa to watch his team's three first-round games - in Rustenburg in North West, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth - would have to fork out R60,000.
And that's for the cheapest category of match ticket and economy-class travel. The £4,900 package includes accommodation for 14 nights at a three-star bed and breakfast in Sandton and travel between the venues - either by plane or by bus.
This is simply too much for English fan Mu Ali, who told the Sunday Times he would need a "small fortune" to come. The London-based marketing manager said: "I'm not even considering it; it's far too expensive. It's a choice between keeping my flat and going on holiday."
Kevin Miles, an England fan and director of international affairs at the Football Supporters' Federation, said there was a "general perception" that the World Cup in South Africa was expensive. He predicted that South Africa would see fewer English fans than those who travelled to previous World Cups.
"I've applied for every single game that England plays in - up to the finals. Those are category 1 tickets and it's $2600 for seven games. That's before I've paid for flights, before I've paid for travelling between venues, before I've eaten anything."
South African fans have been slow to respond to ticket sales for the World Cup, but when compared to how much foreign fans will have to pay, they may be missing out on the bargain of a lifetime.
The Sunday Times has established that:
- A Brazil fan would have to pay R90,000 for a package that includes return flights, transfers, 12 nights' accommodation and tickets for Brazil's three first-round games;
- A Mexico fan would have to pay R105,000 for a 15-day trip, including return flights, domestic flights and three first-round tickets; and
- Mexican company Super Travel's all-inclusive week-long package (at R59,000) has sold out. It includes only one ticket for Mexico's opening match against Bafana Bafana.
Gustavo Signorio, director of the official Fifa tour operator in Argentina, Mundoreps SRL, said at R22,000 for an economy-class return ticket, airfare from Buenos Aires was expensive during the World Cup. "A room in a three-star hotel is$300 per night and almost all hotels request a three-night minimum stay."
Mundoreps SRL also offers a 14- day package at R63,000, including return flights from Buenos Aires, accommodation and tickets to Argentina's first three games plus a few local excursions.
Earlier this week, German football legend Franz Beckenbauer slammed ticket and travel prices, saying that few Germans - already put off by high crime levels in South Africa - could afford the tickets.
Marc Young, editor of the Berlin-based English newspaper The Local, said that while Germans had a "soft spot for South Africa", they would not take kindly to being "ripped off".
"I have a feeling you're going to end up having half-full stadiums, which is going to be a shame."
Salmar Burger, a lecturer at the University of Pretoria's Biokinetics, Sport and Leisure Sciences department specialising in sport tourism, said it was important to have full stadiums for economic, social and psychological reasons.
He said full stadiums also provided the atmosphere at such events.
Burger said that South Africa was at a disadvantage because the "majority of spectators are from halfway around the world" and would not be able to afford travelling, given the global recession.
Some Dutch fans have opted for a cheaper trip.
Oranjereisbureau , a subsidiary of Fifa-endorsed OAD Reizen, is offering a 17-day chauffeured caravan experience that includes return flights from Amsterdam and tickets to two of Holland's three first-round matches at R23 000 per person.
Oranjecamping spokesman Mieke de Vries said: "We give Dutch fans the chance to follow their team for better value for money."
Sadly, her father, Jacques, 62, cannot afford the trip. "Travelling to South Africa for the World Cup is only possible for rich European businessmen, not for simple people like me," the retired teacher said in a telephonic interview.
But Rich Mkhondo, spokesman for the Local Organising Committee, said that the tickets to this World Cup were the cheapest in the history of the event.
"Tickets for this World Cup are still 40% cheaper than the previous three, whether you're coming from South Africa or Germany," he said.
"The problem is that it is a long-haul destination - but we are not responsible for those packages."
R1.3bn for World Cup safety
Police will spend R1.3-billion to make the 2010 World Cup safe for the hundreds of thousands of foreign and local fans, says minister of police Nathi Mthethwa.
In an article in the ruling party's online newspaper, ANC Today, Mthethwa said that terrorism and criminality would be dealt with "swiftly and with no mercy".
Mthethwa said the police had already spent R665-million on equipment ranging from helicopters to 100 BMW highway- patrol cars. The new equipment will be used first for World Cup security, but would then be available to bolster ordinary police work.
Other new equipment include mobile cameras, water cannons and four mobile command units at a cost of R6-million each.
Mthethwa said a further R640-million would be spent to deploy 41000 officers specifically to ensure the safety of teams and spectators.
"The South African government has invested huge resources both in human (resources) and in state-of-the-art technology to complement one another. With the resources at our disposal and co-operation we have received so far, we would be able to know who will be attending what matches," he said.
Referring to the row this week with e.tv over the station's broadcast of interviews with unidentified criminals planning to prey on World Cup spectators, Mthethwa said: "This enables us to plan ahead and thwart evil intentions of the scoundrels, even those who were given prominence and hiding places by the media houses."
Two senior e.tv staff members are due in court tomorrow in response to subpoenas demanding that they hand over original footage and identify their sources, both of which the station has so far refused to do.
Mthethwa said specific plans to secure the World Cup included:
- Police and the defence force will be put on full alert throughout the event, which is likely to mean the cancellation of all leave in that period;
- About 40 helicopters will be available with cameras linked to monitors on the ground;
- Each national team will be provided with a team of SAPS intervention force members and private security assigned to them for the duration of the event;
- Security will focus on routes from airports, on Fifa offices and on hotels, stadiums, fan parks and tourist venues likely to be visited by fans;
- Police are recruiting and training 55000 new officers, taking total police numbers to more than 190000;
- A moratorium on new police reservists has been lifted. About 45000 reservists will be taken on and trained, pushing the reserve force to more than 100000;
- The SAPS will work with foreign police, who will contribute skills, languages and cultural knowledge appropriate to the different nations participating; and
- A special 24-hour call centre will offer health and security advice to all visitors.