JOHANNESBURG – Easy access, clean toilets, a variety of food and drink, sufficient security officials who actually watch the crowd and not the game, and entertainment – in addition to the game – that doesn’t take away from the sport but makes attending an NBA game fun.
There is a LOT that South African clubs, marketing operators and national federations can – and must – learn from their American counterparts, lest we continue to see crowds of 2000 come through the gates on one of the most thrilling days of Test cricket this country has ever seen, as was the case at Kingsmead last week.
Or a similar figure for a midweek football match involving South Africa’s biggest/most popular sports team.
When SA Rugby took a pre-season event featuring all four Super Rugby sides to the new Cape Town Stadium, it came as a shock when the place was packed. Largely that was down to people knowing they were going to a spacious venue with good amenities.
It was a big "up yours" to Western Province Rugby and its beleaguered authorities, who are still living in the dark ages and wish to protect a relic like Newlands.
Sport must move with the times, and that goes for the venues that host them too. Sadly in South Africa they don’t, mainly because of economics.
We have cricket grounds in this country that have had no development in 16 years, when the World Cup was held here. In the meantime, cricket has moved on since 2003 with T20s (even T10s), TV reviews and pink balls.
The only fresh elements at most cricket grounds in this country are some new lights and big screens, which aren’t used properly but were installed for the T20 Global League/Mzansi Super League.
Otherwise, in 2019 you’re still buying boerewors rolls, tasteless burgers, oily slaptjips, Simba chips and beer/soft drinks. Nothing’s really changed.
The same goes for the entertainment during the breaks. If there is any at all, it’s dull and outdated.
And if you’re the Lions rugby union and you’re trying to bring fans to Ellis Park for the derby against the Bulls at the start of next month, you just go ahead an exclude the majority of the population because the only artists down to perform on the day include Bok van Blerk, Pieter Smit, Liezel Pieters, Pieter Koen and Dirk van der Westhuizen, because, you know, screw diversity – it’s still 1988 in one part of Doornfontein.
Sports teams in the United States value their spectators – from all different backgrounds, ages and genders – more than is the case here in South Africa. They genuinely listen to them and then genuinely attempt to integrate what those fans have to say into the experience at venues.
They don’t short-change spectators by not running replays of everything (including run-outs, Cricket SA) on the giant screens – all in HD, by the way – and they use the full dimensions of the screen, unlike cricket grounds in this country.
It’s no longer time for SA sports authorities to pay attention, it’s time to actually make changes, become more innovative and more outward looking.
People’s spending budgets have become smaller and smaller, and in light of Tito Mobweni’s speech yesterday, that’s only going to continue. Sports bodies need to shape up; it’s 2019, time to get with the times.