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Durban - The eThekwini municipality has budgeted R1.5 million to entice crowds to events at Durban’s three major stadiums – including giving away “free” tickets at ratepayers’ expense.
A report that the city would have to fork out money to entice people to watch games has angered opposition parties, who want to know why ratepayers should pay to attract crowds.
The municipality move comes after concerns were raised about the long-term viability of the R3.1 billion Moses Mabhida stadium which has no anchor tenant with deep enough pockets to make it financially sustainable.
In June, the city revealed that it had already paid R50m since the soccer World Cup to attract events to the stadium and dismissed claims that it was a white elephant, saying it had generated an income of over R207m in the past two years.
This week the city splashed R125 000 on 15 000 tickets for Saturday’s clash between AmaZulu FC and Golden Arrows. The tickets have been given to four local sports teams and others for distribution at schools and in municipal wards.
The head of the parks, recreation and cemeteries department, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, said tickets purchased by the municipality would be given to the Sharks, KZN Dolphins, Lamontville Golden Arrows and AmaZulu FC. The sports clubs were then expected to give the tickets away – to their fans.
Ngcobo said the city had started an initiative called “My city, my teams, 60 000” and they expected stadiums to be packed to capacity when local teams played.
Ngcobo said the initiative was intended to break down racial barriers because, in the past, sport was a tool used to divide people.
“Our stadiums are not full during soccer matches because people support Joburg clubs like Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. Our sports facilities do not get full because our clubs are not popular. We want our stadiums to be full for every event,” he said.
“Apart from purchasing tickets, the R1.5m would also be used for education campaigns to encourage people to watch local games, recruit cheerleaders and promote cultural events linked to the different sports.
“The R1.5m budgeted for this financial year is not enough and will not cover all the social cohesion programmes we have planned,” said Ngcobo.
He said he would present a report to the health, safety and social services committee requesting more funding.
DA caucus leader, Tex Collins, said buying tickets and giving them away to sports clubs was a “crazy idea” that his party would never support.
“Why should the city pay people to come to watch matches at our stadiums? It makes no sense. We have never smelt a report requesting such funding as the executive committee,” he said.
Minority Front councillor Patrick Pillay said there had to be more creative ways to encourage people to be involved in social cohesion programmes as opposed to squandering ratepayers’ money.