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Business: Rugby Brings R1 Billion Boost to SA Economy


Recent Gauteng Business News

18 March 2009

The year's British and Irish Lions rugby tour is expected to boost the country's economy to the tune of at least R1-billion, with direct foreign exchange revenue reaching the R250-million mark. This makes it the biggest international sporting event ever to be hosted by South Africa.

The British and Irish Lions (commonly known as the Lions) feature the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and tour New Zealand, Australia and South Africa on a four-year rotation basis. This year's tour, the 28th the Lions have made to South Africa in the past 119 years brings the Lions back to South African for the first time in 12 years.

The recent R25-million deal signed by SAB as the 2009 Lions Series sponsor is the richest in the history of Springbok rugby, says Andre Homan, SA Rugby's project manager for the Castle South Africa 2009 Lions Series. The interest in the event has amplified the ability of SA Rugby to enhance commercial sponsorship and deliver increased income for the future development of the game.

Homan, said 50 000 international rugby supporters are expected to follow the Lions to South Africa, with most staying at least three weeks, despite the global credit crunch The series will create awareness of the host cities and South Africa as a tourism and business location with increased activity as well as additional industry sales in trade, hotel and recreational services.

With packages valued at £3 400 per person, the current economic times have undoubtedly had an impact on ticket sales. To counter this, we have been appointed to sell within non-EU countries to drive visitor numbers, said Jaco van Noordwyk, divisional director of sports and tours division of Indo Jet Travel.

To prevent tickets becoming available to the general public at inflated prices, SA Rugby is working with all the relevant government departments and agencies to clamp down on counterfeiters and unofficial agents.

A successful Lions series will certainly help South Africa's chances in the bid for both the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups, the third largest global sporting event behind the Soccer World Cup and Olympics Games. The smooth-running of the event, coupled with the excitement generated on international media, will profile South Africa showing that we are capable of hosting major future sporting events, adds Homan.

Although more difficult to assess and quantify, there are also expected to be longer-term economic benefits as a result of business opportunities arising though exports and inward investment. Research shows that large events do have impact on tourism numbers post the event, primarily through promotion spin-offs and the likelihood of repeat visits.

As the Lions last toured South Africa in 1997, we have no doubt that the nation will get behind the Castle South Africa 2009 Lions Series in a big way. South Africans are renowned for creating a phenomenal patriotic atmosphere around the games, ensuring the Lions supporters enjoy their stay, regardless of the results on the field, Homan says.
The 10-match adventure sees the Lions take on four provincial teams, two invitational combinations, the Emerging Springboks as well as the Springboks in three tests between May 30 and July 4. The next tour is scheduled for 2021.

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