British & Irish Lions managing director Ben Calveley says interest in tickets for next year’s tour of South Africa is higher than any previous tour.
The official ticket ballot for South African citizens closed on 16 September, with fans from the host country having already been informed of the results of the ballot.
Over 250,000 SA residents visited the official tour site, 75,000 have registered, and 275,000 ticket applications have been balloted for, underlining the huge amount of interest and anticipation for this unique tour.
The Lions’ eight-match tour of South Africa begins in July 2021, with three Tests scheduled against the Springboks.
While Covid-19 restrictions mean that fans are still not allowed back in stadiums, despite a domestic competition resuming in South Africa, Calveley was confident that fans would be allowed into the country to experience the tour.
‘What is clear is that the interest in the Lions is off the scale, it is considerably higher than we have seen for previous tours,’ Calveley said during a news conference.
‘Our approach is to focus on “Plan A”, which is working in partnership with the South African Rugby Union to make sure we are ready to deal with whatever Covid environment we find ourselves in next year.
‘There are lots of reasons to be optimistic. We have seen that sport has returned at the elite level around the world.
‘South Africa’s borders opened on October 1 and there are lots of sporting events happening, particularly in South Africa, between now and the [Lions] tour, so there are lots of opportunities for us to learn.
‘We all know that Lions tours need to have fans in there, without that famous sea of red, Lions tours are just not the same.’
The Lions announced on Thursday that they will host Japan at Murrayfield Stadium on 26 June for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup.
The first-ever clash between the world’s greatest touring side and the Brave Blossoms will act as a curtain-raiser for the Lions’ eagerly awaited tour to South Africa.
However, the date of the match coincides with the English Premiership final and falls outside World Rugby’s regulation nine international window. This means that Premiership clubs are not obligated to release any of their players to Warren Gatland’s squad for the match.
Calveley said that interest in the Test match will remain high all the same.
‘My view is there is lots of examples even within rugby of multiple Test matches happening on the same day – the Six Nations does it on the culmination of the Championship.
‘I am really sure there is more than enough enthusiasm. There are more than enough rugby fans out there to accommodate multiple fixtures and we are really looking forward to the Japan fixture up in Edinburgh.’
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