Slow ticket sales leave £18m gap at World Cup

DESPITE strong interest in next year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, a sizeable loss is still predicted for Rugby New Zealand 2011 Ltd.

The tournament's organisers – a joint venture between the New Zealand Rugby Union and the government – originally estimated a loss of 14 million but when expectations around ticket sales were downgraded it increased a further 4.3 million as the only income RNZ 2011 receives is from the sale of tickets.

Now with 85,000 match tickets sold as part of official travel packages and 50,000 fans from more than 100 countries pre-registering for venue and team pool packs, which went on global sale yesterday, RNZ 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden, remains optimistic the 18.3million figure will not blow out further.

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"At the moment we are sitting at a projected loss of just over NZ$39 million and I think we're confident enough to stay there at the moment and certainly the events around the start of the ticket campaign have given us a bit of comfort there," Snedden said, 500 days out from the start of rugby's showpiece event.

"We will continue to evaluate the whole thing ... but we're happy enough with where we sit at the moment."

Construction costs have been kept in check from the outset, with redevelopment favoured over the provision of new stadia. A proposal to build a new 70,000-seater stadium on the Auckland waterfront was dropped after a public outcry, and instead Eden Park has been revamped. The only new stadium is in Dunedin, where the Forysth Barr Stadium will be used instead of Carisbrook if construction is completed in time.

Fans in Wellington were able to pose with the Webb Ellis Cup yesterday, a trophy New Zealand have not won since 1987, as the promotion for the start of phase one of the ticketing process swung into top gear.

The applications for venue and pool packs close on Friday, 21 May with individual match tickets expected to be on sale later this year. A ballot system will be used for tickets to the semi-finals and final, which will all be played at Auckland's revamped Eden Park.

The tournament will kick off with New Zealand taking on Tonga at Eden Park on 9 September and Snedden said ensuring the ticketing programme went smoothly was a priority.

"We've got to sell a bucket load of tickets. We've got to sell 1.65million tickets.

"I would love to have the vast majority of them sold by late this year, early next year but I'm also resigned to the fact that I think we're going to be selling tickets right through the whole process and during the tournament itself."