Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FIFA's Official Match Fixing

We were warned a long time ago that FIFA would rip off South Africa during 2010. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, and the tourists are staying away.
The Kruger National Park recently dumped some 25 000 rooms on the market, after Match Services, for whom they had been reserved, failed to sell them. It paid no penalties for relinquishing the reservations, so the park now has only a few weeks left to try to sell the empty beds.
Match Services is the organisation that was granted monopoly rights by FIFA to sell tickets and tour packages to foreign visitors. Match is part-owned by a company run by Phillipe Blatter, the nephew of FIFA president Sepp Blatter. It has been cavalier in its treatment of South African businesses and rapacious in its sales to foreign tourists.
The same happened with more than two thirds of the nearly two million rooms Match originally reserved. Many of the hotels, lodges and B&Bs that agreed to Match's harsh terms, because it seemed to be the only chance of participating in the promised World Cup bonanza, are now stuck with tons of unsold inventory and little time to sell it.
Meanwhile, tour operators are expected to pay a whopping $30 000 licence fee to Match for every country in which they wish to sell packages. For a foreign operator serving only its own country, that's bad enough. But for a South African tour operator with clients all over the world, the initial outlay to Match could be crippling. If your company gets two groups each from five countries, that's over a million rand you have to recoup from ten paying customers, just to take care of the Match mafia.
Clearly, only the really big operators can afford such an extortionate shake-down, so smaller businesses are left out in the cold. So much for developing the tourism industry in South Africa.
As if this isn't enough, Match charges massive markups, including 35% on World Cup tickets themselves. Rooms were sold to Match at the kind of knock-down prices only a monopolist can demand: it insisted on paying 2007 rates. Reports vary, but talk in tourism circles suggests that international guests pay anywhere between 50% and 500% more than regular high season rack rates for rooms resold by Match.

Read the full story "Who is ripping off whom?" at The Daily Maverick. And then there's the book "FOUL!" by Andrew Jennings. He has a most interesting web site, http://www.transparencyinsport.org

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