We can't afford rugby's elite

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 11:00 26/08/2014
lansdowne park grandstand

NOT ENOUGH SEATS: The Lansdowne Park grandstand is too small to host the Crusaders' Super 15 game.

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The Marlborough District Council has turned down a Super 15 rugby match next year because it would have cost ratepayers more than $200,000.

Additional lighting and seating upgrades for Super 15 requirements meant a Crusaders versus Hurricanes game at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim was uneconomical.

The council was approached by the Tasman Rugby Union to host the match in May, according to council committee papers.

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Council assets and services manager Mark Wheeler said it was suggested the council bid to host the game, which was proposed for the top of the South Island, but the council couldn't afford it.

Hosting a Super 15 game at Lansdowne Park was possible if ratepayers wanted it to be funded, Wheeler said.

The game could still go ahead if a sponsor paid for the upgrade work, he said. "We love sport, we'd love to have that sort of thing here, but it is really expensive."

The minimum gate sale expected by the Crusaders franchise was 10,000, including about 2000 pre-booked sponsors and other tickets.

Lansdowne Park had only 4500 seats, with about 2100 under cover, and it needed to find 5500 more temporary seats, Wheeler said.

These were in short supply, and it would cost the council $80,000 to install the 2000 it had found.

The tickets were likely to be $30 each for a night game at the end of May, which could be cold and wet. "That's quite a lot for here. We would need quite a few residents here to the game."

Only 3500 people went to the Makos v Hawke's Bay game at Lansdowne Park 10 days ago, Wheeler said. "And that was a nice bright afternoon game."

The council, as host, would also have to fund the Crusaders' accommodation for two nights, travel and food.

Lighting at Lansdowne Park was also not up to Super 15 standard, and the council was looking at more than $200,000 in costs even before it improved the lighting.

"We concluded there were too many risks to proceed with a bid."

Wheeler said from a risk management point of view, hosting the game wasn't seen as a sensible thing to do. "We don't think ratepayers should be paying for it. We would be putting at risk a lot of money for that. That was the view of some of the councillors and staff that looked at it as well. We did look at it carefully."

The Tasman Rugby Football Union did not underwrite or fund Crusaders matches, he said, and the Crusaders franchise expected a "significant" return from the match.

The Crusaders were a drawcard, they could take games anywhere around the country or offshore, and to bigger venues to make significant returns, Wheeler said.

The Crusaders' home ground, AMI Stadium in Christchurch, was not available for the game because it was to host the under-20 Fifa World Cup.

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- The Marlborough Express

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