Fans will pay for top stars in S'pore

Fans will pay for top stars in S'pore
The chance to watch the world's top women tennis players like Serena Williams lifted the overall attendance at this year's WTA Finals at the Indoor Stadium to cross the 100,000 mark.

Show Singapore sports fans top talent and they will show you the money.

As the Sports Hub enters its sixth month in the business of hosting elite events, promoters are beginning to see a clear picture of fans' willingness to open up their wallets to turn up at the state-of-the-art venue.

The good news is also that enough of them will do so.

During last week's WTA Finals, over 129,000 fans forked out between $17 and $196 to secure tickets to catch top women's tennis stars battle it out at the Indoor Stadium.

This was the first time the prestigious season-ending tournament's attendance figure had breached the 100,000 mark since 1993, when it was staged at New York City's Madison Square Garden.

Likewise, a sell-out crowd of 51,577 thronged the National Stadium to watch an international football friendly last month, one that featured five-time World Cup winners Brazil and samba king Neymar going up against Asian champions Japan.

But while those two events were resounding successes, the August clash between Italian champions Juventus and a Singapore selection side fared less satisfactorily - only about 27,000 paid to watch the match.

Tickets for both football games were priced from around $40 to $180, and there was a somewhat expensive lesson learnt by promoter World Sport Group (WSG).

"We didn't get the price points right for the Juventus game but we maintained it for the Brazil clash, even though that had two elite teams facing off," said its chief executive Andrew Georgiou.

"We now have a better idea of what the Singapore market wants. But, at the same time, fans must remember that top-quality sides cost a lot of money to bring here - the price of tickets will reflect that."

During the first five months of scheduling at the Sports Hub, the lower end of tickets are comparable - if not cheaper - than similar events abroad.

For instance, tickets for one WTA Finals session started from $17, similar to last year's edition in Istanbul - and reasonable, considering that the world's top eight female players were in action.

But fans had to fork out more to get close to the action, as premium seats went for $196 - more than double the $93 for the Istanbul edition.

Under a public-private partnership scheme, SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) will bear the cost of constructing and operating the $1.33 billion Kallang showpiece.

The Government did not pay anything upfront but is making annual payments to SHPL over 25 years, beginning in August 2010 when construction started.

A wide, flexible price range ties in with the Government's vision for all Singaporeans to enjoy the Sports Hub's facilities.

To be more inclusive, Baey Yam Keng, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Culture, Community and Youth, called on promoters to set aside free or discounted tickets for the less fortunate.

The Straits Times reported on Friday that tickets for Singapore's three group matches at the Nov 23-29 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup will cost as low as $8, and not more than $50.

Mr Baey, who is also an MP for Tampines GRC, welcomed the move, noting that national team events should be priced more reasonably compared to foreign acts.

He added: "There's little the Government can do to control prices so organisers must make a judgment call on what the market can afford.

"There's no point charging $500 for a seat and then having a half-empty venue.

"If we are to be a sporting nation, it's not only about participating in sports but also building a culture of appreciating live events and world- class athletes."

Singapore's rising affluence also means more sports fanatics are flocking overseas to catch their idols on their own turf. This reduces the appeal of a less-popular outfit like Juventus coming to town.

"Organisers should be aware that the days of us getting excited for any European team coming here for holiday games are over - we want to see top teams face each other and playing properly," said financial consultant Eric Gwee, 34, who travels biennially to London to watch Premier League games.

For well-supported teams such as English giants Manchester United, it seems that there is still a market for a wide ticket-price range.

The Red Devils reportedly command an appearance fee of over £2 million (S$4.1 million) to face AC Milan in the Middle East early next year.

But student Mohd Akram, 18, said: "To see a top European club, I would pay up to $100, which is still much cheaper than the air ticket to Manchester or Madrid."

This article was first published on November 2, 2014.
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