Tomorrow night sees the All Whites up against the Solomon Islands at North Harbour Stadium in a 2014 World Cup qualifier. The ticket sales (all 2,700 of them) have been poor, but rather than address the reasons why, NZ Football Chief Executive has gone on the offensive and pulled out any number of thinly veiled threats.
McKavanagh is, with a great deal of justification it must be said, extremely disappointed and frustrated – he has made that very clear. The presale figures are of huge disappointment, and it appears at this early stage that the break even figure will be beyond NZ Football.
So why is nobody going?
Well, for a start, there are some within the football fraternity claiming that poor marketing has hampered the fixture. Some clubs have received very little information from all accounts. No pricing, nothing. When you start ignoring your core market you’re bound to struggle.
Then there’s the Tuesday night factor. Ever tried crossing the bridge on a wet night in peak hour traffic? Good luck. To be fair, NZ Football has put on a number of free buses to North Harbour Stadium from the CBD to try and lighten the load. Shame they seemed to have told very few people about it. It is a night like tomorrow that NZ Football may be starting to wonder whether making North Harbour Stadium their HQ was such a smart tactical move.
What’s more, let’s take a look at the opposition. Yes, the Solomon Islands embarrassed the All Whites a couple of months back, but expecting soaring ticket sales to watch the 95th ranked team play the 153rd ranked team is somewhat optimistic.
There seems to be some expectation that if it was held in Wellington, ticket sales would instantly go through the roof. There is no doubt that Wellington is now the home of football in this country, and it is a distinctly deserved accolade. Yet in 2007, the corresponding World Cup qualification game was held on a Wednesday night in the capital. Vanuatu was the opposition – the team that beat New Zealand in the previous qualification series for the 2006 World Cup. The attendance was less than the presales for tomorrow night. 2,500 was the final number. Whilst I can recall some hand wringing over why so few tickets were sold, it is hard to remember similar threats being made to Wellington.
Of course, you’re not comparing apples with apples, but nine days later, the Phoenix pulled a home crowd at the same venue of over 18,000.
Then, as part of the same qualification series, 8,000 turned up in Auckland to watch the All Whites play New Caledonia.
To take it a step further, when Paraguay and Honduras toured after the 2010 World Cup, more people turned up in Auckland to watch Honduras than turned up in Wellington to watch Paraguay (a game also hampered by mid week scheduling). So much for Auckland’s sporting “passiveness”.
So for Grant McKavanagh to try a last ditch attempt to coax Aucklanders to the game tomorrow night is common sense. However, making threats about not bringing a game back to the city is fraught with danger. There may be a few people who were initially contemplating going tomorrow night, who don’t respond well to threats.