‘Get tickets now, or lose out’
With only 20 days to go before the opening of the Africa Cup of Nations, prospects of seeing full stadiums look slim, writes Timothy Molobi
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the January 19 to February 10 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is not pressing panic buttons yet in the wake of slow ticket sales.
By late yesterday, only 312 000 tickets had been sold, which is less than half of all the available tickets.
The LOC has targeted 500 000 ticket sales of the available 800 000 at the five host venues – Durban, Johannesburg, Mbombela, Port Elizabeth and Rustenburg.
LOC chief executive Mvuzo Mbebe conceded that he was not happy but was positive of future sales.
He added that the FNB Stadium naming rights dispute also contributed to the slow sales of tickets for this venue.
The calabash-shaped arena has been renamed National Stadium for the duration of Afcon.
This was after the public works ministry brokered a deal with First National Bank on the waiver of the company’s naming rights with respect to the hosting of the tournament.
Mbebe said: “After this victory, we are going to be working nonstop with eQtickets to make up for all lost time to achieve record-time printing of all tickets for each venue. And also prepare for the immediate distribution of the tickets to their rightful owners.”
More than 70 000 tickets have been sold for the opening and closing ceremonies, he said, adding that Ethiopia and Zambia had placed orders for 10 000 and 5 000 tickets, respectively, for each of their three group stage matches, while Algeria had ordered 1 500.
“We are meeting the Ghanaians, who have also shown interest in placing orders for their supporters. We are fortunate that our country has a lot of people from across the continent and we expect them to support their teams.”
As an incentive for the supporters, the LOC has introduced packages which it thinks will improve sales.
The “Stadium Package” allows fans to watch all group matches at a particular stadium regardless of the team they support.
The “Follow your team Package” allows fans access only at their home team matches in the group stages.
Mbebe said he expected sales to go up as national teams trickle into the country.
“There will be a lot of hype from now on and we expect ticket sales to escalate. People are already excited as teams announce their final squads as some have been waiting to see if their favourite players would make it.
“I am confident that we will go beyond our target of 500 000 tickets,” said Mbebe.
Most worrying were ticket sales for the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg and Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth.
Star-studded Ivory Coast, which has the likes of captain Didier Drogba and the Touré brothers – Yaya and Kolo – has not been able to attract a lot of interest in and around the North West town.
Mbebe said based on history The Elephants of Ivory Coast had always managed to attract big crowds and he had no doubts that this would be the case even before they touch down in the country.
He reckons the same would happen with the Black Stars of Ghana in the Eastern Cape town.
The veteran administrator, Mbebe also defended the lack of marketing and promotions, saying these would soon become visible and that they were ready to paint host towns with Afcon colours.
But time is running out for the organisers to make sure that they pull decent crowds and to ensure the tournament is a success.