Red Army told SA tour a 'no go'
NEWS: The British and Irish Lions looks set to lose one of their most potent weapons on their tour of South Africa.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, tickets for the original fixtures have now been cancelled.
Even though new tickets will be issued once the revised itinerary is confirmed, the report claims sources have indicated the authorities are preparing for substantially reduced crowds for the tour.
It has been suggested that only local spectators will be able to attend.
Questions have been lingering over the attendance of fans during the upcoming tour due to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, although there was still some hope that those travelling to back the Lions might yet be able to attend.
Indeed, the last official update a few weeks ago was that there was still a small chance that fans would be allowed to travel for the tour, but it appears that scenario is now off the table.
That would, of course, rule out any hope of visiting fans cheering on the team, with as many as 35,000 supporters previously expected to make the journey from the home nations to watch Warren Gatland’s side.
On the last tour of South Africa, in 2009, local officials were stunned by the sudden invasion of the Red Army for the series opener in Durban, while four years ago, the British and Irish hordes appeared to out-number Kiwis in Wellington as the Lions inflicted the All Blacks’ first home defeat since 2009.
The 2021 tour was meant to have delivered a profound financial boost to South Africa’s rugby community and wider economy, but instead they are having to desperately seek a tiny return on having the Lions in their country.
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According to the report in the Mail the revised schedule will see the last two Tests taking place in the 95,000-capacity Soccer City in Soweto – in order to maximise ticket sales, even if the massive arena used for the 2010 Soccer World Cup Final has to be half or two-thirds empty.
Gatland is due to name his 36-man tour squad next Thursday.
Source: Daily Mail