Johan Fourie's blog

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Why WP Rugby should move to Cape Town stadium

with 6 comments


There are many reasons why the Western Province and Stormers rugby teams could continue to play their rugby at Newlands, their home for more than a century. The three most frequently cited are that Newlands is the historic home of South African rugby, its walls draped in the old traditions of the game and the memories of rugby legends, great moments and fierce rivalries. The second is that a switch to the newly-built Cape Town stadium would be financial folly; Western Province Rugby already owns Newlands, while they would have to rent the facilities at Cape Town stadium from the City of Cape Town. And the third, why change something that’s not broken?

Proponents of the move often counter with reasons of their own: The facilities at the new stadium are far better for the players and for the fans. Newlands, tucked into a suburban neighbourhood, can be a traffic nightmare; in contrast, Cape Town stadium has rapid public transport connections to the central train station and is close to the large Waterfront with its ample (if expensive) parking. The capacity of the new stadium is also larger, the spectator experience much better and, the clincher, beer is allowed inside the stadium. Compared to Newlands, the player facilities are also world class. And to put it bluntly, Cape Town stadium is also much more impressive than Newlands (see picture) and represents the spirit of the new South Africa and the future of Cape Town.

So here’s why I think WP Rugby should move. First, tradition and history are important, but we should refrain from using it to arrest progress. Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees since 1923 and arguably one of the most revered (and cherished) stadia in the United States, was closed in 2008 after the new Yankee stadium was built. The old stadium was demolished in 2010 and is now a city park called Heritage Field. Arsenal, one of England’s oldest football clubs, moved in 2006 from Highbury, where they had played since 1913, to the new Emirates stadium. It wasn’t that these clubs had not valued their history, but what they realised was that if they wanted to remain at the top of the game, so to speak, they had to move forward.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, there is the belief that, because Western Province Rugby owns Newlands, the financially sensible thing to do is to remain there. This line of argument, though, neglects to consider opportunity costs. Let’s say a conservative estimate of the value of Newlands is roughly R300 million. If Newlands were to be sold, Western Province Rugby could potentially earn up to R30 million annually from investing these funds. Such returns, I suspect, could easily pay for rent of the new stadium, given that all stadium maintenance costs and other related expenditures would now be removed from WP’s budget. (A side note: this requires the City of Cape Town to reconfigure the new stadium to ensure that WP Rugby can accommodate all their stakeholders, principally members and suit holders. This seems to be happening, as the new Business Plan for Cape Town Stadium suggests.) The point is: owning doesn’t imply that there are no costs; the foregone income may be much higher than the current benefits of ownership.

But I’m actually not in favour of selling Newlands completely, because I think there is value to be had from the current history and tradition. Yes, I am in favour of Stormers and WP games being played at the new Cape Town stadium and thus the money to do this must be found somewhere. So here’s my proposal: redevelop Newlands. Reduce the seat capacity to a maximum of 10000. Convert all of the current suites and upper levels into A-grade offices, conference facilities, hotel rooms and perhaps even condos. Continue to use the pitch for practice sessions. What Stormer supporter would not like to look from his office window and see the team practice for this weekends game? Why not remodel the Jan Pickard stand into the four-star Jan Pickard Hotel, where each room has a view of the field? Or, for those really avid supporters, let them buy a bachelor or two-bedroom apartment with a living room view onto the famous Newlands grass. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to an early captain’s run on a Friday morning?  The multi-use of stadia is becoming a global phenomenon: I’ve been to a shopping mall inside Benfica’s Stadium of Light, which housed not only a supermarket but several retail shops and cinemas.

A smaller Newlands will also allow WP Rugby to host other events like derby schools rugby or the final of the club championships, which usually doesn’t draw more than a few thousand. And if we are really inventive, why not build a permanent roof and use the stadium for temporary exhibitions, music concerts, or even other sport codes: imagine a ten-thousand seater sports arena for an ATP tennis tournament, or world-class gymnastics or boxing events.

Redevelop Newlands into something that will more than compensate WP Rugby for hiring Cape Town stadium for all Currie Cup, Super 15 and international rugby matches. More people, more fun, more beer, making more financial sense. At least for the next hundred years.


Written by Johan Fourie

January 26, 2013 at 13:58

6 Responses

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  1. You don’t sell you heritage and the history and origin of SA rugby that easily. If you do that it means that it didn’t carry that much value, period. Those who support such a move either don’t care about something like that or is just plain ignorant.!!!

    John Martin

    May 15, 2014 at 13:38

  2. Hi Johan, my opinion is of the historical and cultural view, Western Province fans and supporters from across the whole of the Western Cape and indeed from any part of the world Identify Newlands Rugby Stadium, The transport/parking/lodging/shopping which surrounds Cape Town Stadium will be far to expensive from the ordinary man on the street, Newlands is still within his reach financially. Looking at the location between Newlands and Cape Town Stadiums, Newlands remains by far more central to all the suburbs, where Cape Town Stadium at Greenpoint is out of the way and further removed from the areas where all the die hard fans reside. My point of view is if you change this Historical venue, the numbers attending will surely dwindle, it is good to change when change is for the better, sometimes we look past what is really important to conform to and follow trends around the globe, We are such an unique Nation, and if we sit and think every where there are efforts made to bring back what is our History, erecting of monuments to commemorate important persons and events, who would like to Remember Newlands by Photographs or film, NOT me, especially when there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Stadium as it is. H. M. Bester


    August 14, 2013 at 23:54

  3. Hi Johan,
    Thanks for an interesting article. It certainly begins to cover the angles, but there is one I think still needs to be addressed: the social aspect. Part and parcel of the success of Newlands is the “returning clients” – men who travel from Paarl, Stellenbosch, Worcester etc for the day to braai at the surrounding schools and who enjoy the day with the mates (or family). This “value” cannot be quantified, but I believe it will be a deciding factor for many who have to decide on whether to make the journey and / or renew season tickets. Can this issue be included into a “cost benefit” analysis? I don’t think so. It’s a social issue, but an important cultural one.
    How would you address this issue?
    – WP Fan

    Johan Muller

    January 28, 2013 at 15:03

  4. I don’t know anything about the technical aspects or financials, but have to agree that the options for redevelopment can be quite cool. I have been to the historic Arsenal stadium, now redeveloped as Highbury Square ( It is a premium residential space. Newlands is much larger and the mixed use that you describe can work very nicely. The point is that there are options.

    Waldo Krugell

    January 27, 2013 at 07:19

  5. Dear Johan

    I have heard from a source that I have previously found reliable, that the Cape Town Stadium does not conform – in terms of the size of the playing fields – to the required International Rugby Standards.
    In addition to this, the changes that would have to be made, along with the rental and maintenance that WP Rugby would have to pay for CT Stadium would not be a financially viable option.

    Any other comments / input herein?


    January 26, 2013 at 16:12

    • Rubbish mate,

      WP Rugby Costs will easily be covered by the re-development of Newlands ( 3 times over !! ) and Revenue earnings from leasing out either private residences, office space, conference facilities, a WP Rugby Museum, and some boutique shops !!! I will not go into the details, but I was involved a an Identical situation in Sydney re: The Olympic Stadium after the 2000 Olympics !!

      Newlands is delapadated, uncomfortable, service terrible, toilets disgraceful and can’t have a quiet beer in the Stadium, etc….It is Crap in Capital Letters, stuff History !!
      CT Stadium is State of the Art, Comfortable, Service Awesome, Toilets Spotless, Views Brilliant, Field Surface Perfect ( Size can be extended in 1 WEEK Tops, so NO issue there) and the Transport there is PERFECT !!! As for Braai’s, Hamiltons is next door and would gladly open its field for an awesome Braai and Social experience !!! It’s a NO- BRAINER !!!

      The The TV Rights for all Currie Cup, Super and Test Rugby games will triple !!!

      Commercially, there is NO CONTEST = CT Stadium wins 52-3 in Rugby Terminology !!! It’s called Growth and Progress !!!

      If the Management at WP Rugby can’t work this out, then they are seriously CLUELESS and STUPID = just as CLUELESS and USELESS as they are with the choice of Coaches and DESTRYING WP and STORMERS Rugby ( NOW the most INEPT Team in SUPER RUGBY, despite having a HUGE amount of TALENTED players like Rooikop, Malherbe, Fourie, Kolisi, Etsebeth, Carr, Vermeulen, De Villiers, De Jongh, De Allende, etc…. They should at least be in the TOP 6 of the Table, NOT 16th !!!

      Smal is a good appointment, but the entire Management and Coaching Team MUST change OR Smal will not be able to change ZIP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Lena Smart

      April 16, 2014 at 20:34

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