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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Earthquake dents Crusaders' coffers

Earthquake dents Crusaders' coffers

Last updated 05:00 21/03/2011
As the Crusaders get ready to play their next Super "home" match in London next Monday, the administrators are preparing to offer refunds to season ticketholders.

With the Crusaders forced to play their remaining home matches in Nelson and Timaru, after last month's earthquake knocked AMI Stadium out of action, the franchise's loyal season-ticketed fans have been left stranded.

"We are working through that now," chief executive Hamish Riach said. "We are going out to our season ticketholders in the next two weeks about refunds."

By offering refunds to the several thousand ticketholders, the Crusaders' will have to scrap an income stream but will be hoping the Twickenham match offers a bumper pay day if tickets continue to sell at a healthy rate.

Already at least 20,000 tickets have been issued. Despite Twickenham boasting an 82,000 capacity, the Crusaders have only been granted a consent to sell up to 55,000 tickets.

"If we are to hit that [55,000] figure quite early we might go to the council and see if we could grow that," Riach said. "The consent is for 55,000 because of the transport to get there and taking into consideration the railway maintenance.

"Logisitically, this whole thing has been very difficult. There has been a lot work, a lot of patience, a lot of flexibility required from people to get this to happen."

Although it appears the Crusaders could earn a large sum, it will be offset by owner of the ground, the English Rugby Football Union, demanding a slice based on attendance and the Sharks are unlikely to go home empty-handed either.

In addition, a percentage of ticket sales will go to the earthquake recovery appeal.

The Crusaders have been liaising with sports management company the Essentially Group – which has a branch in New Zealand that manages stars such as Richie McCaw and Dan Carter – to promote the match.

"The input from here is that the style has to be consistent with all the things we do here – and that has to be repeated over there," Riach said.

Meanwhile, afternoon rugby at Rugby Park could be a reality for the Canterbury NPC team later this year.

Since learning AMI Stadium could be unavailable until February, Canterbury has requested the New Zealand Rugby Union allow them to play matches in Christchurch during daylight hours.

Although Rugby Park has floodlights, there are concerns the lighting is not good enough for television broadcasters and there are no other facilities in the city that would allow games to be played at night.

Riach answered "potentially, yes" when asked if Rugby Park would be the NPC team's home base.

"We have signalled to the NZRU that it is going to be a little hard for us to play night games and they are starting to think about getting the draw tweaked so that it gives an option to play if we are at home."

The small stand at the ground, which is owned by the CRFU, has been inspected by structural engineers and, despite some superficial cracks in the concrete, it has been declared safe.

The ground's small capacity – it could optimistically hold about 5000 fans without temporary stands – will also mean the Ranfurly Shield holders will budget for a slump in gate-takings.

- The Press

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