ARC chief: We were wrong on Beckham

By Bernard Orsman

The Auditor-General will be asked to help set up a review of the David Beckham-LA Galaxy football match projected to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of ratepayers' money.

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee yesterday said the council had only itself to blame after only 16,600 people turned up for Saturday's match at Mt Smart Stadium.

The council needed to sell 19,000 tickets at the 25,000-capacity ground to break even. Fans who paid $85 were angry when the council offered a two-for-one ticket offer to "create an outstanding atmosphere and occasion" that never arrived. The number of free tickets is still being worked out.

Mr Lee has asked council chief executive Peter Winder to seek advice from the Auditor-General about a rigorous, objective and transparent review of the event. Advice would also be sought on whether it was appropriate for council staff to do the review because Mr Lee does not want to spend more money on an outsider.

The ARC, which approved the event behind closed doors in April, has kept ratepayers in the dark about the cost of bringing the football superstar and his American team to Auckland.

Pressed yesterday, Mr Lee said the loss would run to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An interim report outlining the key facts and figures would be made public at a council meeting on Monday. The full review, including an investigation into the performance of people along the decision chain, would take longer and be made public, subject to legal issues, he said.

"I don't know where it all went wrong. It will all come out. It won't be swept under the carpet," he said.

Mr Lee has written to Local Government Minister Rodney Hide about the commercial failure of the event and told him of the review.

He said he accepted criticism by Mr Hide about getting involved in a commercial event, but believed it was not all doom and gloom. Having David Beckham in Auckland created positive publicity overseas for the region and New Zealand.

Auckland City Council events group manager Rachael Dacy has strongly defended the council's decision to put $115,000 into the event. This was made up of $35,000 to help 6500 schoolchildren join David Beckham and the team at training on Friday and $80,000 towards bringing the team to Auckland.

The payments are separate to the ARC costs, and included Mayor John Banks, two councillors, council staff and guests enjoying hospitality worth up to $500 at the match.

The council's investment, from a $1.3 million events budget, was around profile, community engagement, giving Aucklanders a world-class opportunity, relationships with the Fifa football body, the development of football and Auckland being a major events destination, she said.

"It is common practice that public bodies fund major events right around the world... I think it is a great investment."

* Counting the cost

Break even: 19,000 tickets
($85 each - $1,615,000)

Match crowd: 16,600
($85 each - $1,411,000)

Loss: $204,000

NB: These figures do not include free tickets and other financials, such as merchandise and food and beverage sales.

- NZ Herald

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