Take the long way round - Snedden
August 25, 2010
Rugby New Zealand 2011 boss Martin Snedden gets his message across © Getty Images
Rugby New Zealand 2011 boss Martin Snedden is confident that next year's World Cup will tick the boxes for travelling fans despite early fears about a lack of accomodation.
Fans are set to flock to New Zealand from around the world, with estimates suggesting in the region of 60,000 fans will descend on the country, but with the promise of a tourism boost comes the headache of providing somewhere for them all to stay.
The second phase of ticket sales, which begins next month, offers fans the chance to buy individual tickets and plan their own itinerary. Snedden is confident the country can meet the demand in the pool stages but admits the knockout stages will be a challenge.
"When we get to the knock out phase of the tournament everything gets tighter," he said. "I think it is fair to say that we don't have enough high quality accommodation available but some other options are being worked through and there will be some cruise ships available from the quarter-final stage onwards."
But for those planning a trip, Snedden insists it is not all about luxury: "I suspect that the solution to the challenge that exists is the variety of options. It is not just going to be about hotels, it'll be about motels, motor homes that were very popular during the Lions tour in 2005, private home rentals and also some home hosting which I think could becomes one of the real features of the tournament with people offering their spare room for rent. A little bit of patience, a little understanding and things will come together quite nicely."
If the prospect of the world's best players is not enough of a lure, New Zealand is rolling out the welcome mat with a nationwide festival that will act as a showcase for the country as a whole, and Snedden wants visitors to immerse themselves while taking the "long way round" the country.
"People will find a series of opportunities to experience what we would call authentic or real New Zealand," he said. "We are trying to convince people to take the long way round, in other words, take their time getting around New Zealand, explore the different communities, and not necessarily go from city to city but travel around a bit and experience everything."
Snedden has spent time studying earlier tournaments and other sporting occasions in a bid to find an unbeatable formula with the 'adopt a second team' campaign from Rugby World Cup 2003 in Australia set to get another airing in New Zealand. "We thought it was fantastic," he explained. "It was a really great way of pulling communities together as a whole and getting them support teams that they would otherwise not take any notice of. Each of the teams that sent their management to have look at the preparations and we were able to match them up with the local communities and already I think there is a nice connection there."
But Snedden has not only cast an eye across the rugby archives, with this year's FIFA World Cup an obvious port of call. The All Whites' success in not only qualifying but in harnessing a nation's support made a big impression.
"New Zealand is not a soccer-mad country but the way that the whole of Wellington pulled behind them for the play-off with Bahrain was special," Snedden said. "That game was probably the best sporting experience I have had in my life - and I've been to a lot of great sporting occasions. What it showed me is that people can get wrapped up in the event and if we can generate the right kind of spirit around the World Cup then it has the potential to galvanise the country in the same way.
"We have just got to create that special kind of fever to carry the event through. I think we saw that in South Africa where there had been a lot of doubters in the build up to that tournament but when it came to the crunch, at least from this distance, it looked like that it did. If we can do a good as or even better job then I will be very happy."
One thing out of Snedden's control is the quality of the rugby being served up by the game's elite but with the All Blacks leading the sport's revival with a crowd-pleasing running game it appears they may be the most valuable marketing weapon.
"It is almost the icing on the cake at the moment," he said. "I think rugby has been going through a difficult time of late, not just in New Zealand but internationally, and there was a strong feeling that the quality of rugby was not entertaining enough and not of the required standard. But that has changed in the last few months with the All Blacks' outstanding performances in the Tri-Nations. And that will force all the other teams to reassess the type of game they want to play. And secondly that will probably result in a more entertaining and attractive style of rugby being played which will be to the benefit of the sport and our tournament next year."
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.
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