Heineken Cup Organizers Defend Ticketing Policies With Stands Two-Thirds Empty
Heineken Cup organizers "have mounted a strong defence of their ticketing policies" as Premiership rugby side Saracens prepares to face its semifinal opponents Toulon "in front of almost 60,000 empty seats at Twickenham on Sunday," according to Robert Kitson of the London GUARDIAN. European Rugby Cup Ltd. CEO Derek McGrath has "rejected calls for discounted tickets to be made available and insists over-pricing is not to blame for the situation." The return of Jonny Wilkinson, along with a host of other big names, "has so far failed to generate much box-office fever," but McGrath believes that a modest predicted crowd of 25,000 is not ERC's fault. McGrath said: "There is a certain disappointment, but we have to prepare for all eventualities. If Ulster had beaten Saracens in the quarterfinals we'd have been in the Aviva Stadium and it would be packed out. If Leicester had beaten Toulon it would be Leicester vs. Saracens. Can you imagine if we'd already chosen a 20,000-capacity venue?" ERC also stressed that it has given each semifinal club €45,000 ($58,000) "to market the fixtures and says a number of alternative options to increase attendances have been investigated" (GUARDIAN, 4/24).
STAYING HOME: In another piece, Kitson wrote with ticket prices ranging from £35-50 ($53-76) and few Toulon supporters in the habit of traveling abroad with their team, the TV cameras "will have to be creative to divert attention from the massive gaps in the stands" (GUARDIAN, 4/23). In London, Chris Hewett reported the Heineken Cup "is already fighting for its future in the face of a rabid outbreak of boardroom politics." An atmosphere-free event at the most famous rugby stadium of them all "will hardly help matters" (INDEPENDENT, 4/23).