Lions fans fail to show for historic Barbarians clash in Hong Kong
Promise of 10,000-strong travelling horde off the mark as stadium will be only ‘three-quarters full’
Hong Kong has delivered on its part of the deal in trying to fill Hong Kong Stadium for Saturday’s historic clash between the British & Irish Lions and the Barbarians, rugby chief Trevor Gregory said today. It’s the Lions who have failed to deliver 10,000 fans.
Gregory admitted the absence of overseas British fans would result in the 40,000-seater So Kon Po venue being only “three-quarters full at kick-off”. Only around 26,000 tickets had been sold for the clash between the two iconic sides.
“We have sold the maximum number of tickets we can in Hong Kong. The problem lies in the fact that most of the travelling fans from Britain are going straight to Australia as this is a long tour and it would cost them more to stop over here,” said Gregory, the chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union.
“We are very grateful for the Hong Kong rugby community and the extended community for supporting this match. But there is nothing we can do as far as the overseas fans are concerned,” he said. “At the end of the day, that was out of our control.”
Lions officials had promised 10,000 fans would descend on Hong Kong and were confident it would be a sell-out.
In November 2010, Charlie McEwan, a senior official involved in marketing the Lions brand, said: “There will be a minimum of 10,000 fans from Britain and Ireland following the team to Hong Kong and I don’t expect there to be many empty seats.”
Fears that the absence of the travelling horde would translate into a financial loss for the HKRFU were dispelled by Gregory. The union lost more than HK$10 million from hosting the second Bledisloe Cup game between the All Blacks and Wallabies in 2010 when only 26,000 fans turned up.
“This is a completely different commercial arrangement. When Australia and New Zealand played here, we had to pay both unions a guaranteed fee and that is not the case this time. The Lions have been marvellous and they wanted to stop over here,” Gregory said.
“While it would have been nice to make some money and have a full stadium, we are protected financially and won’t be at a loss.”
Ticket sales have picked up over the past few days, according to organisers, who expect a last-minute rush on match day (7:30pm kick-off). Tickets will be sold at the ground with counters opening at 10.30am. Tickets are priced at HK$1,290 (gold), HK$1,000 (silver) and HK$750 (bronze). In addition, tickets for the Lions den – the South Stand – will cost HK$1,100.