British and Irish Lions 2017 ticket ballot finalized

Lions 2017 ticket ballot

The 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand has built-up an incredible amount of interest. The hotly coveted three test match series tickets are in demand from both local fans in New Zealand (NZ), and overseas rugby fans alike. With limitations on available seats, this week the official Lions 2017 Ticket Ballot finalized it’s allocation of nominated local tickets.

For many, that meant receiving their notification late last week. The news was good for some, bad for others, but it was the fairest system. In 2005, the limited tickets ‘sold out’ in just 15 minutes–so the ballot was conceived by NZ Rugby to give a fair allotment of public tickets.

The ballot was created when NZ rugby fans were invited to register their local interest by August of this year. A a huge number registered online–families, individuals and all those who wished to witness a test in either Auckland or Wellington. More than 140,000 individuals registered for the allocation of authorized ticket sales.

British and Irish Lions 2017 ticket ballot finalized

Those who miss out now on the test match tickets will still have the chance to see the Lions in action against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, New Zealand Maori and five Super Rugby teams. Tickets to those matches went on public sale on October 28.

For the majority, that maybe as close as they can get but with the heritage and time between official Lions tours, it could be a ‘once in a lifetime chance’. And some of the more grassroots occasions [NZ Provincial Baabaa’s and Maori games] will be quite attractive alternatives for both locals and the traveling fans.

Some remember well with fondness, the Maori All Blacks hosting, and beating the 2005 side 19-15. Brian O’Driscoll was a part of the Lions side, with Carlos Spencer, Johnno Gibbs, Hosea Gear, Piri Weepu and Leon McDonald leading a formidable composite side–the 2017 tour will find an equally difficult opponent in Rotorua on June 17.

The Lions ‘Army of Fans’

When the Lions tour, they bring an army with them, on two fronts. One is the logistical scenario of a touring party that exceeds over 100 people. The players primarily, management; including head coach Warren Gatland and the administration–a vast number of roles, with huge responsibility.

Then there is the army of supporters. Literally, an army of driven fans who are organized into either the ‘party’ of fans that invade towns, and leave no keg un-tapped. Then there are the purists, who follow the matches, keep aware of player’s form and on selection. A more discerning member of the army, but still one of the thousands who follow the team up and down the country.

They have done it in Australia, South Africa and last time in New Zealand was an extremely memorable, and fairly mistake-free tour. The fans arrived in droves, booked up hotels, motels, ‘bed and breakfast’ accommodation. They were great for business, and fans who secure Lions 2017 ticket ballot or organized tour groups can inject millions into the local economy. And they are more than likely, fun.

Followers of the Lions will descend on NZ

The overseas fan will have varying pathways to purchase tickets through. The official website Lions Tour 2017 has a well designed, and fan-friendly site to accommodate all types of fans. You can buy merchandise, read history, watch videos and more.

Join the Pride and register for the exclusive e-newsletter. The sight claims that ‘We get you closer to the Lions’ with access to both the tour party, and ex-players who will be in NZ at the same time. Gavin Hastings and Willie John McBride are just two luminaries who will escort tour parties.

Packages range in value [pounds] from $2,599 up to $15,499. That package has both International and domestic airfare, hotel accommodation, meals and match day exclusive experiences. Many are tailored, with motorhome packages very popular so fans can get around the country, with sightseeing a huge by-product of the tour.

For the typical Lions fan, they may purchase a basic package of match tickets, and arrange their own hospitality–many would have family and friends, stay in backpackers or lodges, to gain a more ‘grassroots’ flavour. But no matter what they choose, they are coming!

Locals will embrace the traveling army

They will be traveling in their tens of thousands, and it is one of the more enjoyable parts of any Lions tour. Visiting a country as part of a large group, you can feel at home (with friends and comrades) while in a foreign land.

And those visitors can expect nothing less than open arms to greet them. New Zealand is known for it’s hospitality, and that will count for double during the tour. Across all sectors, it will be a mass welcome for the Lions fans–even in the face of intense rugby competitiveness on the field.

Rugby fans especially can be sure that any of the hundreds of local rugby clubs will offer a handshake, a cold beverage and a hearty conversation. The hallmark of any Lions tour, the camaraderie and friendships that can be made on tour is what makes it a lasting memory. There will be many luncheons and events planned, with local and overseas guest speakers to enjoy.

Pennants, club ties and memorabilia exchanged, jokes shared and the same ‘rugby united’ sense that exists in sports clubs and groups all around the world.

NZ Ticket Allocation Finalized

So as well as the visiting overseas fans, this tour will have massive local support base. That was the decision behind the ‘ballot allocation’ system. NZ Rugby’s chief strategy and operations officer Nigel Cass told Radio New Zealand “It’s a one in 12 year opportunity, and the fans have certainly come out and registered for the ballot in very high numbers.”

Demand for test match tickets would “significantly outstrip supply,” Cass said.

NZ Rugby graphic
New Zealand Rugby official DHL Lions 2017 tour poster, with chronological history and results (website graphic)

This means there was limited number of allocated general public tickets for spectators to view any of the three matches. Test tickets range in price from $149 to $449, but caution is already being made toward illegal scalping and price-gouging. NZ Rugby’s best advice was to only purchase through the approved resellers: All Blacks tours or Lions tours.

Ticket scalping–in which tickets are usually resold at a premium–is legal, except for events of national significance; such as Rugby World Cup and in 2017, Lions test match games. The NZ government legislation is in place to protect the authenticity of special events, to give special powers to police to prosecute for any breaches of the laws around ticketing.

Locals advised to enjoy official Fan Zones

So the general rugby fan who may have missed out on a ballot allocation, might be best to either go to an official reseller, or opt for one of the sponsored events supporting each of the Test matches. Plans are being made for ‘fan zones’ to be built in Auckland and Wellington. A place to meet traveling fans, strike-up a conversation, toast their health and enjoy the occasion.

Some may just want to experience the atmosphere, rather than focus solely on the action on the pitch. And they too will ‘have a ball’ as the country will have embraced the event by June of next year. Like a World Cup, Commonwealth Games or major event, the publicity will reach it’s zenith well before the kick-off. The town will be painted red, in anticipation of the Lions 2017 tour.

And why not, the ‘Red Army’ brings their emotion, their song and colour with them. It will certainly be memorable–even if you weren’t lucky enough to have your name drawn when the Lions 2017 Ticket Ballot was concluded last week.

Remember, you still have the rugby to enjoy.

“Main photo credit”