JOHANNESBURG - Stadium management managing director, Bertie Grobbelaar, argues that remaining relevant is the most important aspect to ensure FNB Stadium doesn’t become a white elephant.
It’s with that thinking in mind that Stadium Management launched the Shell Helix Ultra Cup which will see Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns battle it out in the iconic venue on July 21. This pre-season friendly fills the gap left by the Carling Black Label Cup, which is also hosted at FNB Stadium. But the return of the 'Black Label' next year will not mean the end of the Shell Helix Ultra Cup as the tournament is scheduled to be there for the next three years.
“As you all know, the Carling Black Label Cup is not taking place this year. We decided to make an effort to bring the game to the fans during that period of time which is what led to us hosting this tournament,” Grobbelaar said.
FNB Stadium is the busiest of all the stadiums that hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The stadium is also the most financially viable compared to its counterparts like Moses Mabhida Stadium and Cape Town Stadium. Those two venues are courting their city’s rugby franchises to take their matches there in a bid to remain relevant and make money, with football not consistently bringing enough numbers.
The venues that will struggle the most this year are Mbombela Stadium and Royal Bafokeng Sport Palace.Neither of the stadiums have a Premier Division team playing there and neither do they host a lot of events that would bring revenue. Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng lost Platinum Stars as the primary tenant following the club’s relocation to Cape Town, as well as a change of name after their relegation to the first division.
“You need to remain relevant,” Grobbelaar said. “To do that, you constantly have to look for events that people want. As you know, the Guns 'N Roses are coming here. The Ed Sheeran deal has been signed for next year. The two Ed Sheeran shows sold out in two days. So it’s a constant effort to remain relevant. We do our utmost in that regard.”
While football doesn’t make much money, stadium management also has to cater for it at FNB Stadium with Amakhosi playing a minimum of 15 matches there. Juggling football and concerts has had an effect, with the pitch not being in pristine condition throughout the year.
“We had a meeting and I can assure you that there are various plans in place as far as pitch covering is concerned to ensure that the pitch is in good condition,” Grobbelaar said. “It all depends on what event you’ve got but there are various plans in place to ensure that the pitch doesn’t get damaged. If and when the pitch gets damaged, we repair it in accordance with the standards required for football.”