Should England pay more?

It’s hard to know the best way to make money, but charging family and friends for a traditional dinner is bound to raise eyebrows. Bring a bottle or some chocolates, sure, but family is family.

It may be a nostalgic way of looking at things but families can be very tetchy. Normal families, Varsity families…cricket families.  Cricket’s global family is dysfunctional at best and warped at worst, but the cousins do still recognise each other. And they take it personally when they are scorned or affronted.

Which is why it is worrying that Cricket South Africa will be charging their relatives from the UK far more to watch their team here at the end of the year than they will be asking locals to pay. They call it “differentiated ticket pricing.”

It’s not uncommon. At Victoria Falls there are three different prices – one for locals, another for SADC residents and a third, much higher number, for visitors from the rest of the world. They can afford it – right?

“CSA’s operating model requires the organisation to earn a reasonable return on certain tours to sustain cricket in South Africa,” said CSA’s chief operating officer, Naasei Appiah. “This requires all aspects of our revenue generating avenues to return reasonable income. We have noted that a number of fundamentals in our model require a review and adjustment to ensure CSA’s sustainability.

“Against the above background, we are reviewing our business to ensure that we realise a reasonable return on the forthcoming (England) tour. This has necessitated management to perform certain evaluations and initiatives internally to achieve our goal. These include differentiated ticket pricing (being cognisant of our local fans as well as our economic environment), extensive engagement with tour operators and concluding all other ground logistic arrangements prior to publicly announcing the details of the tour.”

There’s lots of corporate speak in there which, as is often the case, says nothing. But it is clear that the 10,000 or so England supporters who are intending to visit for some part of the four Test, three ODIs and three T20I series will be required to pay substantially more for their tickets than locals. The problem is that people like to be treated equally. English cricket supporters understand how important they are as a tourist commodity to the countries they visit, and expect respect as a result.

In Sri Lanka last year over 5,000 of them chose not to buy tickets for the first Test match in Galle preferring to watch the game from the ramparts of the ancient fort next to the venue rather than pay highly inflated ticket prices. That won’t be possible at any of South Africa’s venues but many might still boycott the games on principle and watch the action from a Waterfront sports bar.

Kugandrie Govender was recently appointed by CSA to oversee most aspects of CSA’s income generation: “Income from ticket sales is insufficient to support our business model. As a result, there is a heavy focus on raising income across the organisation, including my recent appointment and mandate to concentrate on securing revenue and in addition, to make the game more accessible to all South Africans. As a result, we are currently engaging with a number of potential partners in this regard,” said Govender.

It is one of the reasons that the England itinerary is already four months overdue – and not set to be released for at least another month.

“We appreciate the frustration and apologise for the inconvenience; and we appeal to all to allow us the benefit of administrating as we best see fit in order to protect and elevate both cricket in SA and the best interest of our amazing fans. These are our priorities,” said Govender.

Thousands of loyal supporters – here and from in England – have been desperately trying to make plans for the end-of-year tour. Hundreds of businesses are similarly desperate to make their plans, And England to South Africa happens only once in four years and requires years of planning.

CSA need to maximise revenue, clearly. The obvious fear is that making a million extra rand at the gate might cost a great deal more when half the family feels disinclined to arrive for the meal.

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