Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

$449 too much for a Lions ticket? Try $1000 - sixty years ago

Lion Barry John kicks a penalty at Athletic Park Wellington in 1971
Lion Barry John kicks a penalty at Athletic Park Wellington in 1971

New Zealand Rugby has come in for some flak over test ticket prices of up to $449 for next year's tour of the British and Irish Lions.

But since the beginning Lions test tickets have been some of the hottest in town, with packages up to twice the weekly wage.

For the first tour in 1904 the crowd poured into Athletic Park's terraces in "unaccountable confusion" while those in the stand paid $67 in today's money to sit in the stands.

In 1930 concern over the the tussle for tickets reached Parliament with the Government asked to investigate the use of young boys to hold places in all-night queues.

By 1959 the frenzy for tickets was a windfall for scalpers.

Seats in the stand for the third test in Christchurch were offered for the equivalent of $1040 - with a night's accommodation thrown in. Average weekly wages were the equivalent of $500, according to number crunching in the Herald's Battling the Lions magazine published before the 2005 tour.

If you add a $200 hotel room to the $449 top price for next year's tests still much less than nearly 60 years ago, especially compared to average weekly wage now of $1060.

Makeshift "Scotsmen's stands" at Eden Park - the Lions' only test win on the tour - did a roaring trade charging up to $105 a seat.

In 1977 scalpers offered the $8 tickets at seven times their face value at Eden Park, where the Lions lost narrowly.

Scalping prompted a warning form the the-then Auckland Rugby Union chairman, Ron Don, who said those indulging in the practice "could prejudice the chances of his club receiving an allocation of tickets for future occasions."

By 2005 online trading was causing headaches for the Rugby Union which launched what was then a contentious email ballot system.

Before the tour started premium test tickets were trading for $650 each - more than twice their original value.

City maps, training jerseys and even a broken jandal were offered as part of the package to skirt anti-scalping laws.

Next year test match tickets range in price from $149 to $449. Matches involving the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, Super Rugby teams and Maori range from $39 to $129. Children's tickets start at $10 for the Barbarians match and $29 for the other non-Test matches. There are no children's prices for the tests.

- NZ Herald

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