Full stadiums 'critical' for 2013 African Cup
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Filling stadiums is a top priority for next year's African Cup of Nations, the tournament's newly appointed head organizer said Thursday.
South Africa's local organizing committee chief executive Mvuzo Mbebe said in his first meeting with reporters since taking the job that having full stadiums was a "critical success factor" for next year's continental championship.
Low attendances for games not involving the home team have long been a problem for the African Cup, with this year's tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea criticized for some poor crowds, even in knockout matches.
Organizers admitted they were powerless to prevent the swathes of empty seats, even after giving away free tickets.
Mbebe indicated South Africa would revive some policies from its successful 2010 World Cup — including having football-dedicated days on Fridays — to raise interest.
South Africa was also considering the unusual step of having seven venues, and not the usual four, with four stadiums for group games and three separate grounds for the quarterfinals onwards.
Candidate cities will present their bids to the organizing committee on March 23 and the winning venues will be chosen by the end of March ahead of a visit by Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou in April. Organizers would focus primarily on using stadiums built for the 2010 World Cup, Mbebe said.
But Mbebe also warned that the African Cup "will not sell itself" as the World Cup did and said the form of South Africa's national team, which has been poor recently, would be crucial to ensuring well-attended matches.
Organizers would make tickets "secure but accessible and affordable," Mbebe said in the presentation, with the organizing committee needing to sell 500,000 tickets to ensure the 16-team, 32-game African Cup had full crowds.
Other plans for the African Cup included a trophy tour from newly crowned champion Zambia down to South Africa.
South Africa failed to qualify for the last two African Cup of Nations but was chosen to host the 2013 tournament in a swap deal with troubled Libya. Libya will host the 2017 version, which was initially awarded to South Africa.
The biennial African Cup will be held back-to-back in 2012 and 2013 after CAF decided to move it to odd years to avoid clashing with the World Cup.
The 2013 tournament will be launched April 3, less than two months after the last one ended, and is scheduled for mid-January to mid-February next year. Exact dates have not been announced.