Cancelling British Lions tour would hurt SA

Andy Powell of the British and Irish Lions is tackled by Jaco van der Westhuizen of the Southern Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on June 16 2009
Andy Powell of the British and Irish Lions is tackled by Jaco van der Westhuizen of the Southern Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on June 16 2009
Image: DUIF DU TOIT/GALLO IMAGES

Talk that 2021’s British and Irish Lions tour to SA is in serious jeopardy could not have come at a worse time for the embattled SA Rugby Union.

The union is already fighting for survival, and if the tour is canned the consequences for the sport in SA would be grave.

It would also be a huge blow for individual Springbok players, who regard competing against the Lions as the highlight of their careers.

The eagerly awaited Lions tours also bring in much-needed revenue. Thousands of Lions supporters descend on SA for these gold chip tours, and the foreign currency they bring in boosts the economy enormously.

Up to 35,000 Lions supporters are expected to make the trip to SA, but the effects of coronavirus may well slash that figure if the tour does takes place.

With unions in the UK battling for financial survival, more emphasis is expected to be placed on home Tests in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

This is because the Lions tour would be of greater financial benefit to SA than to Britain.

The series with the Springboks has already been hit by the rescheduling of the Tokyo Olympics, which is now  expected to compete for exposure over three weekends with the rugby.

The global pandemic has brought rugby to a halt and put the future of the professional tier in doubt as it grapples with a lack of funding.

If the tour does not take place, there would also be consequences for rugby in the Eastern Cape  — the Lions are expected in Port Elizabeth to play an SA Invitational side at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on July 7 2021.

The midweek game has the potential to attract in excess of 30,000 fans, promising to be a money-spinner for Bay rugby and business.

It now seems each country must prioritise fitting money-spinning home Test matches into a congested calendar.

These are tough times for all sporting codes.

 

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