Notwithstanding the tragedy of 101,000 deaths and the annoying recent upsurge in positive Covid cases, SA Rugby president Mark Alexander says a return to allowing full stadiums for the Springboks’ matches is a life-or-death matter for the sport now.
At present, outdoor sports stadiums are only allowed to host 50% of their capacity and Alexander said this was not just denying SA Rugby much-needed revenue, but also stopping the spin-off benefits from reaching the broader economy.
“When I went to the Waterfront in December, there were over 100,000 people and I didn’t have to show my vaccination card, there was no social-distancing there,” Alexander said. “But when it comes to sport, we have all these undue regulations, which puts massive pressure on rugby.
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“Having no Tests in 2020 had a major effect on our revenue and 2021 helped to bridge the gap a bit. But we’re hoping we can have 100% capacity for the Springboks this year or else we will not be able to deliver our budget.
“We need to be self-sustainable because we know we can’t expect government to fund sport, we understand that, but just give us the vehicle to raise funds and deliver our mandate.
“And there’s a knock-on effect for people like the informal traders around the stadiums. Not having full capacity has an economic impact for the country as a whole. We estimate that the Springboks’ six home Tests this year, against Wales, New Zealand and Argentina; the Carling Champions Match against Italy A; the Sevens World Cup and the Sevens Series event in Cape Town, will generate R18.6 billion rand for the economy,” Alexander said.
Alexander, who was recently re-elected for a second and, he says, final four-year term as president, said it was most pleasing to see how successful the introduction of South African franchises into European competition had been.
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“We had to play in the United Rugby Championship in order to qualify for the European Cup. That’s going to be better quality rugby, we’ll be up against six other countries and not just four, so that will raise the bar.
“We want our players in better competitions, against the best teams in the world. And most of our teams are playing in two different competitions already, so the depth is there, we have enough players.
“We just have to manage our players better and be smarter. And we’re seeing more international-based players coming home as the overseas clubs cut down on their squads.
“The bulk of rugby funding these days is in the UK and France. So we need to collaborate with those markets, be a part of bigger plans. We need to sell our properties in Pounds, not Rands,” Alexander said.