Monday, November 14, 2011
We are one week into the SEA Games football competition and the games have been marked by pitifully low attendances so far. While Timor Leste attracted plenty of supporters for their games at Lebak Bulus Cambodia have been followed by a few embassy staff and teams like Thailand and Singapore have seen their support swallowed up by the cavernous Bung Karno Stadium.
When Malaysia, the reigning champions, met Thailand, who won the competition on eight consecutive occasions, at Bung Karno mid week the attendance was given as a conveniently round 1,000. From my vantage point sat behind the couple of dozen Thai fans it wasn’t clear whether that included the large numbers of security officials and omnipresent stewards in their free t shirts enjoying probably their first football match ever.
Despite the hosts Indonesia not playing the organizers saw fit to sell only the most expensive tickets for the games; Cambodia played Singapore in the second game in front of an even smaller crowd. The cheapest tickets were 150,000 rupiah with the most expensive optimistically priced at 500,000.
And this for an Under 23 competition!
For comparison back in 2007 Indonesia was one of four co hosts of the AFC Asian Cup. Second only to the World Cup in prestige for Asian nations, this competition saw the likes of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, South Korea, Iraq and Uzbekistan play at the Bung Karno Stadium. And ticket prices? For the group games the cheapest were 15,000 rupiah and the most expensive were 200,000 rupiah.
The final was held in Jakarta, between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, with ticket prices ranging from 50,000 to 500,000. So, to see a group stage game at the Under 23s in 2011 costs the same as watching some of Asia’s best players in the eyes of the organizers.
In 2008 Indonesia hosted the ASEAN Football Champions, the SEA Games big brother and the group stage games cost fans between 20,000 and 100,000 rupiah. Last years’ competition was also hosted by Indonesia and group stage tickets spanned the 50,000 to 255,000 rupiah range.
Earlier this year Indonesia hosted Turkmenistan in a World Cup Qualifier. The cheapest tickets for this game were 30,000 while the most expensive were 500,000 rupiah. Over 85,000 attended.
The SEA Games organizers arbitrarily doubled the prices of tickets on the day of the opening game without advising fans and with Persija fans till now boycotting the national team over a domestic matter, the nonsense of the obscene prices is being seen with the vast swathes of empty seats at both stadiums.
Surely the organizers can see there has to be something fundamentally wrong when paying spectators are vastly outnumbered by people on duty.
No announcement has been made yet regarding semi final and final ticket prices but given the group stage games we can be sure fans will be expected to dig deep in their pockets if they wish to watch in the stadium.
Still, Indonesia have hosted the games on three previous occasions and each time they reached the final.
Attendances are likely to improve if the hosts continue their fine form but all the while the organizers rank the SEA Games group stage games on a par with the final of the Asian Cup or a World Cup Qualifier then fans will stay away.
First printed in Jakarta Globe