Western Cape Doing All it Can with Limited Time and Resources
Daniel Johnson, Spokesman, Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport
Cheryl Roberts's letter, "Empty seats shocker" (Cape Times, January 15) unfortunately does not reflect the true state of play around the African Championship of Nations (Chan) tournament.
It is correct to say that football's largest fan base is the working class and that successful tournaments attract large numbers of spectators. Roberts then, however, blames, among others, the Western Cape government for the timing of the event and the lack of fans at the games and, rather disingenuously, introduces the notion of privilege - the free MyCiti Bus Service from Hout Bay to the Cape Town Stadium compared with free transport from the townships.
The truth is that:
- Unlike the World Cup, South Africa did not have the luxury of time on its side. It is by default that our country is hosting Afcon and extension Chan 2014. Initially, Libya was charged with the responsibility of hosting the Afcon and Chan, but was unable to do so. The Chan local organising committee, as a result, had only approximately five months in which to prepare for this event. The timing of the event - a time "when the working class is broke" - was not determined by the Western Cape government.
- The timing was determined by the Confederation of African Football calendar.
- The ticketing and marketing of Chan are controlled by the confederation and the Chan local organising committee, and not the Western Cape government.
We therefore do not have unlimited access to "free tickets". Thus far, however, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport has been able to access 3 000 tickets a game from the Chan local organising committee, as we have been charged with the responsibility of promoting the Chan tournament through mass mobilisation, putting bums on seats. These tickets have been distributed to sport councils, South African Football Association and other organisations in our network.
The department has also provided transport to matches for fans from areas such as Delft, Heideveld, Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha, Nyanga, KTC, Samora Marcel, Uitsig, Manenberg and Bokmakierie. Metrorail is also providing free transport to Cape Town station from where fans can access the MyCiti buses.
Finally, one has to put the attendance numbers into context. While the stadiums are not full, the reality is that attendance at the Cape Town Stadium and Athlone Stadium far exceeds the numbers at PSL matches and that of the Eight Nations U20 championship held in 2012. During the Eight Nations U20, attendance averaged between 5 000 and 6 000 a game.
Chan's opening game, Bafana versus Mozambique (not a big name in African Football), attracted 26 000 people. On Sunday at Athlone Stadium, Zimbabwe versus Morocco attracted 12 000 spectators. In Cape Town football terms, this is great support, taking into consideration that Ajax's average attendance is in the region of 5 000.
Clearly, there is an interest from Capetonians and this interest will increase as the tournament unfolds, especially if Bafana progresses. Roberts's assertion that officials "can't seem to grasp that a successful tournament must have fans on seats, supporting the matches" displays a serious lack of knowledge of the work being done by the provincial department to provide communities with access to Chan.
I can assure her that officials who are at the coal face of sport delivery on a daily basis do and will, regardless of ill-informed criticism, and within the constraints of available resources, continue to create opportunities for our communities to experience the thrill of watching international sport being played in the Western Cape.