The billions of dollars South Africa has spent building and renovating 10 stadiums for the soccer World Cup may end up benefiting another sport: rugby.
Soccer is the most popular sport in South Africa but the white-middle class supports rugby and cricket. The country’s economic divide between a mainly poor black majority and a predominantly white wealthy elite may dictate their future use of the World Cup stadiums.
“The problem with soccer in South Africa is that it is not a high-paying spectator sport or a high sponsor-attracting sport,” said Jean-Francois Mercier, an economist at Citigroup Inc. in Johannesburg. “Rugby is. Using some of these stadiums for rugby matches could help” cover running costs.
Tickets to a May 27 soccer friendly between South Africa and Colombia at Soccer City sold for 40 rand ($5). Tickets for a June 12 clash between the South Africa's rugby team, the Springboks, and France ranged between 100 rand ($12) and 400 rand ($52). Maintaining the 10 World Cup stadiums could cost between 350 million rand ($45 million) and 500 million rand ($65 million) a year, said Udesh Pillay, co-author of “Development and Dreams: The Urban Legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”