Image: A scrum between the All Blacks and the Lions during the third test match of the Lions' 2005 tour of New Zealand / Kiwi Flickr / Wikimedia Commons
The All Blacks are such an iconic part of Aotearoa’s culture that they’re almost a literal embodiment of the nation itself.
That’s one of the main takeaways from their new “Tutira Mai” campaign, at least. Released ahead of the Lions tour, the video campaign – which features people from throughout Aotearoa singing their support for the All Blacks – is meant to show that the whole nation is behind them.
But if the All Blacks are pitching themselves as a team all of us can get behind, why are tickets to their matches so expensive?
Sure, the cheapest tickets were $149 (comparable to the last time the Lions toured New Zealand in 2005), but that’s still expensive – and those tickets have long since sold out. The cheapest tickets that are left are much more expensive than that, even when being sold by the All Blacks themselves and not third parties.
Take the All Blacks’ test on June 24 at Auckland’s Eden Park against the Lions. Tickets near the top of the South Stand (Section 431) are currently being sold on their official website for almost $449 each (totalling $459.33 when including the payment processing fee). It’s the same price for their July 8 clash against the Lions at Eden Park for tickets in the far corner near the very top of the stadium (Section 641 for those). Their July 1 test against the Lions in Wellington isn’t any cheaper, either – $449 for a single ticket in Row C of Section 11C. And these are all “nosebleed” seats – tickets that are supposed to be among the cheapest because the seats are so far away from the action.
It’s fair to say that only a certain group in Kiwi society could afford $449 for a seat. At that level, it’s a cash grab.
Ticketmaster has some tickets for slightly less (tickets for Section 314 were priced at $379 plus a booking fee on the Ticketmaster site at the time of writing), which raises questions in itself. Shouldn’t fans be able to count on the official All Blacks website to give them the best deal?
Regardless of whether the cost is $379 or $449, however, most of us can agree that those are incredibly high prices for something that lasts a couple of hours at most. And the alternative isn’t exactly cheap, either, as watching the All Blacks on TV requires a Sky subscription.
If the Tutira Mai campaign is any indication, the All Blacks pride themselves on being representative of all of Aotearoa. But how can they be representative of all of us when so many people can’t afford to see them in person? If a family of four bought tickets at $149 each, that would mean spending $596. How many families could afford to spend that kind of money?
And that doesn’t even include the cost of transportation, food, accommodation (if visiting from out of town), souvenirs and other expenses involved in going to see Kieran Read, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Smith, Waisake Naholo and the rest of the team. Taking the whole whānau to see the All Blacks? That could be a very expensive exercise.
We know that Aotearoa is struggling with a widening gap between rich and poor. Rugby is supposed to be one of those things that unites us all, that ties everyone together regardless of how much money they have. But when you’re charging more for tickets than many people pay in rent, that only increases the divide between the haves and the have-nots.
Economically, the question must be asked why the All Blacks can’t charge less for at least the worst seats in the house. And by less, we don’t mean $322 per restricted view seat. The argument will be made that tickets to games involving the Barbarians, Super Rugby teams or the NZ Māori cost less, but the All Blacks are our national team. Is it fair that watching their games live costs so much?
It almost makes you wonder… do you have to be wealthy to be an All Blacks fan?