Phakaaathi 18.5.2018 06:20 am

Why FNB Stadium was still half-empty at kickoff

Andres Iniesta of Barcelona challenged by Khama Billiat of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2018 Mandela Centenary Cup Friendly match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Barcelona at FNB Stadium. (Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Andres Iniesta of Barcelona challenged by Khama Billiat of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2018 Mandela Centenary Cup Friendly match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Barcelona at FNB Stadium. (Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Thousands of fans didn’t make it to the sold-out FC Barcelona-Sundowns match, which stadium management blames on the JMPD, which blames the fans.

The flow of traffic into Wednesday evening’s massive football match between PSL champions Sundowns and Spanish giants FC Barcelona infuriated plenty of commuters, as well as football fans who didn’t make it in time for kickoff.

But the Joburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) believes many have only themselves to blame. There were traffic jams aplenty around the stadium and nearby roads.

FNB Stadium Management CEO Jacques Grobbelaar tweeted attendance figures – the amount of people who had come through the turnstiles – throughout the match. At the kickoff (6.15pm) the number given was 45 996, or 51.1% of the venue’s capacity.

Given that the stadium was expected to be filled to its 85 500 capacity, this was an embarrassing figure.

The figure given at 7pm (about halftime), was just 66 229, so plenty of people missed half the match or more.

The final figure was 77 564, meaning more than 30 000 people would have only got into the ground after the match kicked off. Some, clearly, did not show up at all.

Grobbelaar said he was “not at all pleased” with the way JMPD had handled the flow of traffic.

“We are a paying customer of the JMPD and we expected them to deal with certain situations in a certain way, like bringing people into the stadium much quicker,” said Grobbelaar. “At a certain stage, I requested the JMPD to flush people through quicker into the stadium and they declined to do so.”

“The N1 and the Rand Show Road offramp worked well on the western side. What didn’t work was the eastern side; people coming off the N1 into Nasrec Road,” he added.

“I am sure that if the kickoff had been at 8.15pm, there would have been better traffic management. You cannot take away from the amount of traffic at that peak hour, with people trying to get home and get to the stadium, mixed up in one funnel,” said Grobbelaar.

The 6.15pm kickoff was part of the agreement with Barcelona. “We had to be finished by 9pm. It was a contractual requirement, so the only window we had was a 6pm kickoff, to make sure all formalities were finished by 9pm.

“All in all, there were no incidents. There were one or two fans that ran on to the pitch. The police were fantastic with the services they provided, the private security was done properly and there were almost no medical incidents … for a midweek game, with such an early kickoff, I think the spectators enjoyed a festival.”

But JMPD spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar believed the blame for delays should be placed at the large number of people who chose to use private transport to the stadium, instead of using the free public transport facilities.

“There were free trains available and all people had to do was park their cars at the stations, show their match tickets, and they would have been given free transport to the stadium. Instead, they all chose to use their personal vehicles.”

Minnaar said there were plenty of JMPD, SAPS, Gauteng traffic department and private security officers deployed along routes, as well as at entry points to the stadium. Little could have been done to improve traffic flow, considering that it was also peak traffic hour, he said.

“There was also a screening process that every car had to go through to ensure they were valid ticket holders, so there were a variety of factors leading to the delays. It could have gone faster though, if people had used the public transport options.”

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