Top form is just the ticket for optimistic New Zealand

Ticket sales surge after victory over Australia in Tri Nations, and organisers are sure local fans and tourists will make tournament a resounding success.

WELLINGTON // The All Blacks' emphatic win over Australia at the weekend sparked a NZ$1 million (Dh3m) rush in World Cup ticket sales, suggesting New Zealanders are growing more confident that their national team can win the trophy on home soil and end two decades of disappointment.

A month before the tournament kicks off, Rugby World Cup organisers announced yesterday that ticket sales have reached 87 per cent of target levels, boosted by the rush since Saturday's Bledisloe Cup win at Eden Park.

Martin Snedden, the Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive, said 1.08 million tickets have so far been sold. That represented revenue of NZ$234m; NZ$34.5m short of organisers' final goal.

The tournament opens with New Zealand against Tonga at Eden Park on September 9, and culminates with the final at the Auckland venue on October 23. The All Blacks, consistently the No 1-ranked team in the world, have not won the World Cup since co-hosting the inaugural tournament with Australia in 1987.

Snedden said the number of international visitors expected during the World Cup had been revised up from 85,000 to 95,000 based on international ticket sales, including 30,000 from Australia and 35,000 from Britain, Ireland and France.

"The upsurge in support from overseas fans is a strong sign of confidence in our ability to host the biggest sporting event New Zealand has ever held," Snedden said.

"It also underlines what we have always said; that this tournament brings multiple economic benefits to our country as well as providing a priceless opportunity to show the best of New Zealand to the world."

Snedden said an analysis of ticket sales for 2011 showed worldwide interest in the tournament.

"We are expecting around 25,000 fans from the UK and Ireland and another 10,000 from France," he said. "It's also terrific to see good numbers coming from the Americas, and that USA, Canada and Argentina will be well supported. Our estimates suggest 10,000 from these countries."

Snedden said 300,000 tickets, representing revenue of NZ$65m had sold in the past 10 weeks.

"As at previous Rugby World Cups in France and Australia, sales will rise during the build-up to the tournament as the event becomes that much more tangible for fans," he said. "At the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, 20 per cent of sales were made in the month of the games. "We are seeing a lift in sales each week and the success of the Bledisloe match at Eden Park on Saturday is already adding to momentum. We have sold a million dollars worth of tickets since then."

Snedden said the challenge over the month before the tournament starts and then the six weeks of its duration is to generate another NZ$34m of revenues, the equivalent of about another 230,000 ticket sales. "Given what we have sold over the last 10 weeks, this is clearly achievable," he said.

Snedden said tournament organisers had used Saturday's Bledisloe Cup Test as a dry run for the tournament. Some fans complained that train services to and from the ground were inadequate and that there was congestion at some stadium gates, but Snedden dismissed those complaints.

"From our perspective, Saturday night could barely have gone better," he said. "We were able to test much of the RWC 2011 planning and protocols and new stadia facilities in a live match environment with a large crowd.

"We identified some fine tuning we will need to do as expected, but by and large the venue and plans passed the test with flying colours and the fans appear to have endorsed that view."

Bernard Lapasset, the International Rugby Board (IRB) chairman said the IRB was confident with a month to go that the World Cup would be "a resounding success."

"The stadia are ready, the supporting infrastructure is ready, the volunteers are ready, ticket sales are on track and hosting will deliver long lasting benefits for New Zealand and New Zealand rugby.

"The anticipation is palpable and as we count down to the opening match ... I have no doubt that fans attending RWC 2011 will have an exceptional experience.

Published: August 10, 2011 04:00 AM


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