(WFI) Grave doubts about the future use of South Africa’s $2.8 billion World Cup stadia infrastructure have been cast by some of the country’s leading sports administrators.
Cricket South Africa CEO Gerald Majola has told a parliamentary hearing that his sport was excluded from the consultation process ahead of stadium construction, with the result that many of the country’s new venues are now too small to host cricket matches.
Leading rugby union executives have also claimed that the new stadiums don’t meet their sport’s needs.
Multi-sports usage has always been considered a necessity for most of South Africa’s new stadiums, as the country’s Premier Soccer League has average attendances of just 7,500 – a figure swelled by the Johannesburg giants, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
Low football ticket prices – in comparison to other sports – also mean that rugby and cricket are more viable tenants for the expensive new stadiums.
“Historically, our game was not played in areas where some of the stadiums were built,” Majola told a parliamentary committee.
“We saw an opportunity, but unfortunately we were not part of the design of the stadiums. If we had met before the time and considered the issues we would have known stadiums would have been accommodating others sports as well.”
Majola had hoped that the stadiums at Polokwane, Rustenburg and Nelspruit, could have been used to stage a Twenty20 tournament similar to the Indian Premeir League (IPL), but said that their size precluded their inclusion.
“It would have meant we would have had an event annually in those three stadiums, which we could have hosted every year in August, maybe early September,” Majola said.
“Unfortunately we are compelled by the size of fields. When these fields were built, we were not part of that.”
South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins told the same hearing that there had been no discussions between Durban city officials
and rugby representatives before the 70,000-capacity Moses Mabhida Stadium was built.
He claims it does not have enough hospitality suites to accommodate the needs of the local Sharks rugby team, who could accommodate it for most of the year. Assuming tenancy now would pose a “massive problem”, he said.
“What we are discussing today should have been discussed before we built the stadiums,” Hoskins said.
“It’s tragic for us as a nation that we now have to act in reverse gear.”
Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium also stands the risk of remaining largely empty with the Western Province rugby club staying at their Newlands home.
Club president Tobie Titus said that Western Province and other partners made a bid to manage the new stadium, but were told “by certain people to forget about” it.
“The same people who told us not to continue became the new operators,” claimed Titus.
Majola revealed that he had received special dispensation from the International Cricket Council (ICC) to use Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium to host a special match to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indian immigrants in South Africa, despite the pitch being 22 metres short on the square.
Management at the Durban stadium are considering removing the first six rows of seats to accommodate an athletics track, which would allow the venue to be used regularly for cricket. Durban city authorities also have plans to convert it into an Olympic stadium if South Africa is successful in its bid for the 2020 Games.
“The biggest capacity for cricket in South Africa is at Wanderers with 35,000,” said Majola.
“At the Mabhida we will have 70 000 spectators coming… We know that the day we sell the tickets, the tickets will be sold out.”
The criticisms of the country’s legacy plans follow serious questions about the future of stadiums posed by South Africans in the build up to and during the World Cup. Many also argued that in a country riven by poverty and socio-economic inequalities the money could be better spent elsewhere.
“The government has enslaved itself to an event that will turn South Africa into a playground for European tourists,” said Sowetan columnist Andile Mngxitama, typifying the mood of many of his compatriots.
“When the event is over, we will still be poor.”
By INSIDER’s James Corbett
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