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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  13 May 2009

2010: Lions Tour A Rehearsal For Fifa World Cup


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The upcoming Castle South Africa 2009 Lions Series, which is being viewed as a logistics rehearsal for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, is the first time ever that South Africa rugby and soccer leaders work together to maximise the use of our stadiums. There are some serious logistic arrangements resulting from the close turnaround of the Lions tour with the Confederations Cup.

Hosting both events poses massive timeframe challenges with stadium use, field markings, ticketing, volunteers, signage, hospitality, branding, concessions (refreshment areas) and media.  

The success of this British & Irish Lions Tour, which is to sustain at least 3 000 jobs for a full year, will also give impetus to South Africa’s bid to host both the 2015/2019 Rugby World Cup Tournaments with the announcement on 28 July.

The mammoth task ahead for the organisers includes handling the logistical pressures that come with transforming some of the stadiums used for a Confederations Cup game into that for a Lions Tour match in a turn-around time of six days.  This timeframe is less than Fifa’s 15-day rule of exclusive use of stadiums before each game.

At the end of May, the 10-match Castle South Africa 2009 Lions Series kicks off at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Phoekeng just outside Rustenburg, which is again used for the first match of the Fifa Confederations cup on 14 June. In preparation, a number of the stadiums have been transformed, upgraded or even built from scratch. At all existing venues there have been new pitches and upgrades to hospitality and stadium concession areas, VIP sections, change rooms, media facilities as well as lighting and sound.

The expenditure for the refurbishments has come from different levels of national, provincial and local governments. Coca Cola Park now seating 64 000 has a new North stand with 4 000 seats and parking garage with 1 200 extra bays, upgraded disabled facilities and concession areas as well as access routes around the stadium.  Pretoria’s Loftus Versveld, with a capacity of 51 000, has a new roof over the East stand and Bloemfontein’s Vodacom Park, that can now hold 48 000, has a extensively upgraded West stand and access areas. Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace which was refurbished for the Confederations Cup now seats 44 000 with a roof on the West stand. Port Elizabeth’s new Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium can seat 44 000.      

The project team leaders have tried to find a compromise in every space, an attitude which extends to the unlikeliest of realms. “Just co-ordinating over 2 000 buses during the tour in and out of the stadia is a complex task,” says Andre Homan, SA Rugby’s project manager for the Lions Tour whose been involved with the Golden Lions Rugby Union for several years. “Over the past year, we’ve worked through the 29-page planning document, along with endless discussions with hundreds of people, from grounds men to paint technicians, soccer bosses to hot-dog sellers.”

“With a few of the stadium handovers taking place after a game at midnight, this overtime required for a general clean up of stadiums, VIP, media and concession (refreshment) areas has created a need for an additional 300 part-time labourers per stadium. Extra jobs are being created to service the 11 000 guests at specially created exterior hospitality villages and 12 000 in-stadium suites during the tour,” Homan says.

“This is a living, moving project where you only realise the sheer magnitude the more involved you become,” says Brendan Cameron, executive director of Circa Hospitality who’s been involved in the hospitality contingent for every Tri Nations, World Cup in the country as well as the Earth Summit.

“The impact on a hospitality note, in the case of Loftus Versveld stadium which hosts the Confederations Cup match between Brazil and Italy on 21 June and the second test of the Lions Tour on 27 June, means Fifa has a mere two days to restore the stadium back before the Lions match as opposed to the two weeks they had to set it up,” Cameron says. “This massive labour and time consuming undertaking leaves our staff only six days to build the infrastructure to host 5 000 VIP hospitality guests, change overlays and sponsors signage.”

“Just under 1 000 volunteers will be recruited for the tour, most of whom will be deployed for a four-hour session playing the crucial role of providing directions and streamlining the queues outside the stadium in parking and public transport areas,” says Allen Kruger, SA Rugby’s marketing director.  “There will be ushers to direct and guide spectators to their seats, a kiosk information team and a small team on stand-by to distribute match programmes, water, etc.”

On-field branding and line markings are typically mowed down after matches but because the two sports require grass of different lengths, SA Rugby has imported paint technology from Australia specifically to wash off directly after the match, having recently tested it at Coca Cola Park, Vodacom Park and Loftus Versveld. No chances have been taken – contingency pitches have been grown near the stadiums, making it possible to replace an entire pitch within 48 hours.

As the rest of the world reels from the global financial meltdown, South Africa’s hosting of three international sporting events will see a boost of R4 billion and the equivalent of one percent of the country’s gross domestic product injected into the local economy. While most sectors of our economy face a bleak and uncertain future, with these major sporting events it is likely our tourism sector will soon resume its previous growth levels.

Over the course of 10 matches, the Lions will take on four provincial teams, two invitational combinations, the Emerging Springboks and the Springboks. All 170 000 tickets for the three test matches, out of 500 000, have already been sold out, with SA Rugby granting 11 000 tickets per match to the Lions and around 22 percent sold internationally.

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