The British & Irish Lions in South Africa in 2021 will be a departure from how traditional tours operate, making it another first for two of the game’s greatest rivals.
The South African Rugby Union and the British & Irish Lions have announced a new innovative commercial partnership that will see the 2021 Lions tour establish itself as one of the greatest in history in terms of supporter experience and revenue.
This first ever joint venture between a host nation of the tour and the Lions itself is set out to reach a new groundbreaking level of spectator involvement and experience, while also delivering a huge financial income to both the Boks and the tourists.
South African Rugby president Mark Alexander has expressed his delight in this new trend, especially after the financial loss the union experienced after missing out on the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
‘The 2023 Rugby World Cup bid outcome was a massive disappointment for us, as a nation and as one of the powerhouses of rugby. It was also a huge commercial blow,’ said Alexander.
The new commercial model was established by SA Rugby through the means of the South African Rugby Event Service (SARES) and the British & Irish Lions (BIL) corporation in order to give the traditional tour a whole new look.
‘We had to regroup and ensure that the British & Irish Lions in South Africa in 2021 spoke to everything we would have wanted to achieve with the hosting of the 2023 Rugby World Cup,’ he said further.
The input of Lions head coach Warren Gatland in the process saw a restructure of the tour schedule, which will only accommodate eight matches, compared to the ten of the 2017 tour to New Zealand.
The schedule was carefully designed in order to provide fans with a structured travel itinerary, while having the ultimate fan experience.
‘We had to create a vehicle to deliver a global elite sporting event that gives a world-class supporter experience. Our filter is the player, the supporter, the legacy, the efficiency and commercial. When we assessed existing tour models, we knew we had to change. We had to learn all the lessons and improve delivery,’ Alexander concluded.
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