The British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa could be postponed to 2022 if the coronavirus pandemic continues to halt travel, South African Rugby said on Tuesday in announcing the ballot registration for match tickets.
Fears remain that COVID-19 will continue to play a role in restricting international travel to South Africa and domestic travel within the country, and SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said such a scenario would in all likelihood see the Lions tour moved to 2022.
"Travelling for international events will likely still be under more pressure than pre-COVID [in July 2021]," Roux said.
"No spectators and people not being able to travel would not make this commercially viable, and then we would discuss how we continue with the tour.
"There has been some talk of moving it out [to a new date], but our travel advice is that by June/July we should be at what is deemed to be normal international travel.
"But we are monitoring it on a monthly basis."
Roux said the tour was unlikely to be moved to later in 2021 "given the decisions around the global calendar".
The Lions are set to play three Tests against South Africa's Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks, two in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town, on an eight-match tour that is currently scheduled for July 3-Aug. 7 next year.
Roux said tickets for the three Tests would be available from 500-3,000 rand ($US29-$US173), suggesting the "top priced tickets are comparable with what was charged 12 years ago when the Lions were last here".
"But what is very different is that we have introduced four tiers of pricing for all matches -- unlike the once-price-fits-all approach last time around," Roux said in an SA Rugby press release.
"This is a once-in-a-decade commercial opportunity, and we won't shy away from acknowledging that we have to maximise the commercial opportunity that the extraordinary demand offers. At the same time, we have been sensitive to the South African fans and have some very affordable prices to watch the best of our local teams take on the Lions."
Ticket prices for matches against the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls Super Rugby teams range in price from R250 to R600.
Tickets for midweek matches against a SA Invitational team and against South Africa A will range from R100 to R350.
"We have kept the bulk of the tickets for the South African fan base having pre-agreed a number with the British & Irish Lions," Roux said, noting full refunds for tickets and package tours would be offered if the tour were cancelled.
Fans wishing to register for the ticket ballot can only do so at www.lionstour2021.co.za.
The ticket ballot registration period will run from Sept. 2 to 16, and successful candidates will be confirmed on Sept. 25.
- Information from Reuters was used in this report