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Lions series in the UK still missing vital part of the financial jigsaw

By Chris Jones
Warren Gatland and the British and Irish Lions coaching staff

British and Irish Lions chiefs have denied they have already been assured of government money to underwrite a ‘home’ series against the Springboks this summer as the full economic impact of scrapping the proposed eight match tour of South Africa has been revealed.

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It has been estimated that SA Rugby, as the hosts, would bank around £23m (R500m) if crowds are allowed into the matches.

According to Lions sources, despite claims at the weekend that the Treasury was willing to ensure the Lions do not suffer any financial loss if the tour is staged in the UK – with tests in Dublin, Twickenham, Murrayfield and Cardiff –  “no assurances” have been received yet.

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The Lions have submitted a bid for help which is still being considered although they insist that the proposed tour is still on the table despite South Africa’s on-going battle with COVID-19.

While the British Government weighs up the pros and cons of bankrolling the Lions, the South African online paper the Daily Maverick claims to have seen projected income for a ‘normal tour’ which would pump a staggering £308m (R6.6 billion) from “direct, indirect and induced impact of direct spend” into the South African economy.  

The paper claimed the “direct expenditure” was projected to be £163m (R3.5-billion) created by 172,000 people (which includes domestic tourists) spending a combined 394,000 days following the Lions tour.

Income for SA Rugby would be hit if fans are not allowed to fill the stadia although television right would still be a significant windfall. The tour as proposed would earn SA Rugby’s governing body £23m (R500-million), the bulk of that made up from broadcast rights.

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Individual regions in South Africa have also been preparing for a financial uplift with the Cape Town region predicting income of around £56m (R1.2 billion) from visiting supporters while Gauteng in the North has worked out the tour would bring in £70m (R1.5billion).

Meanwhile, a petition calling for the tour to be postponed to 2022 rather than being staged in the UK and Ireland has so far reached 6,900 signatures.

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