The great FIFA fiasco

The great FIFA fiasco

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Around half a million tickets for that football event that we’re not allowed to mention went on sale last week and it was pandemonium. The only reason the tickets were available over the counter at an affordable price is that they hadn’t been sold to the great influx of foreign tourists at a greatly inflated price. So this was a desperation sale and it was chaos.

People queued throughout the night for tickets which says much for the loyalty of South African football fans. But when the ticket offices opened the computers went on the blink and the rate of ticket issue was so slow that you would have only got your tickets for a June game in October. Not surprisingly the punters got frustrated so the police were brought in to rough them up a bit. Now I don’t know about you, but if I’d queued all night and still couldn’t get tickets because the system is so inefficiently designed that it can’t handle high demand I wouldn’t appreciate the unwelcome attention of the police. Which is why I didn’t go anywhere near a ticket office and why I’ve even turned down free tickets to some of the games. I’ve seen enough to know that I am better off at home watching a match on the television.

It seems that many of the 500 000 expected foreign visitors are thinking the same. At the time of writing around 200000 have booked airfares and the optimists reckon that figure could rise to 300000 (still only 60% of the predicted figure). Realists reckon we’ll be lucky to get 250000 and that we have the ANC to thank for sabotaging the event.

I met a man last week who is a major player in the hospitality industry. He had booked a top Joburg hotel for a month, bought Toyota Quantums, chartered planes and booked out accommodation in game reserves. The idea was that he would target the top end of the market and offer them a thoroughly pampered few weeks staying in the best places, flying to the faraway games in private planes and otherwise being transported in air conditioned mini busses. The demand has been so poor that he is busy laying off his bets. He’s managed to get rid of the Quantums he bought and has found an airline to take over the one month booking of the top Joburg hotel. The unwanted tickets have been fed back into the system and he is hoping to get out of the whole thing without too much of a loss. Despite all the effort that went into attracting visitors to SA he certainly won’t be making any profit from his R30 million investment.

I asked him whether the global economic meltdown was to blame, or maybe the long distances people would have to travel. Neither of those were relevant for the sort of market he was targeting. What had scuppered the deal was South Africa’s international reputation. President Zuma’s anti colonial blast when he visited the UK didn’t help but Julius Malema’s uncontrolled racist hate rants had probably done the most damage. Which makes you wonder why the “ruling party” allowed SA to host the World Cup if they had no intention of supporting the event. And the only cynical answer I can get to that question is that the “tenderpreneurs” have already benefited financially and couldn’t give a damn whether it’s a success or not. What a pity.

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