One of the most anticipated sports events in the global calendar are the overseas tours made every four years by the combined British & Irish Lions rugby team made up of the best players eligible to play for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
The tour takes place in the year after the Rugby World Cup and the Lions travel in rotation to battle their venerated South Hemisphere rival: next year is South Africa  with Australia four years later and New Zealand in 2029.
The five-week tour programme is due to get under way in Cape Town on Saturday, July 3 next year when the DHL Stormers provide the opposition in the first of five tune-up matches before the first Test against the Springboks at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. The Lions return to Cape Town a week later for the second Test and complete the series at Johannesburg’s Emirates Airline Park on Saturday, August 7.
Commercially, the Lions team is one of rugby union’s biggest and most commercially powerful brands. A report from the BBC ahead of their 2017 series against New Zealand estimated that each four-year cycle between tours generates a turnover of US$ 50 million. The Times added that 2017 also handed New Zealand Rugby (NZR) an income swing of GB£ 26 million (US$32.6 million) between Lions and non-Lions hosting years.
Ticket demand for any Lions match is always over-subscribed and there is a robust demand for official ticket plus accommodation packages to attend the matches. Organisers expect as many as 20,000 Lions fans to attend.
The rightsholder for the official VIP Hospitality programme is a business unit within SA Rugby, rugby’s governing body in South Africa; the company is called SA Rugby Event Services.
What’s significant about the official VIP Hospitality programme is that this is one of the first major global events that has gone on sale after the outbreak of coronavirus. The sales contract therefore includes coronavirus- and pandemic-related stipulations that would never have been thought necessary to include just six months ago.
SA Rugby’s chief executive Jurie Roux, pictured below, has already warned that if the Live Event lockdown continues the tour will have to be cancelled as the financial impact of travelling fans is crucial to the sustainability of the rugby programme. There is also no windows in the global rugby calendar, still reeling from the coronavirus impact, that would allow the games to be rescheduled. https://www.rugbypass.com/news/cancellation-fears-growing-about-the-lions-tour-to-south-africa/
So what are the key new clauses. Not surprisingly, the most significant relates to liability in the event that an official VIP Hospitality client or guest contracts coronavirus:
11. Liability: To the fullest extent permitted by law, each Attendee hereby indemnifies and agrees to hold SARES and the Authorised Agent, directors, shareholders, employees, agents, contractors and invitees harmless against any claim for any injury, loss or damage of whatsoever nature (including consequential losses), suffered or sustained in or about the Venue and/or the Hospitality Area. Neither SARES nor the Authorised Agent accepts any responsibility for any loss, theft or damage of any property suffered or sustained in or about the Venue and/or the Hospitality area.
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organisation. SARES and the Authorised Agent cannot prevent any Attendees from becoming exposed to, contracting, or spreading COVID-19 or any other communicable disease while attending a Match. It is not possible to prevent against the presence of the disease. Therefore, Attendees may be exposed to and /or increase the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 or any other communicable diseases. By entering a Venue or Hospitality Area, the Attendee has assumed the risk to and understand the above warning concerning COVID-19 or any other communicable diseases. The Attendee hereby acknowledges that they have been informed and are aware that in attending a Match and entering a Venue or Hospitality Area that they may be at risk of being exposed to, contracting, and/or spreading COVID-19. IN THIS REGARD THE TICKET HOLDER WAIVES THE RIGHT TO BRING ANY CLAIMS INCLUDING FOR PERSONAL INJURIES, DEATH, DISEASE OR PROPERTY LOSSES, OR ANY OTHER LOSS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO CLAIMS OF NEGLIGENCE AND SHALL NOT SEEK DAMAGES, WHETHER KNOWN OR UNKNOWN, FORESEEN OR UNFORESEEN RELATING TO COVID19 OR ANY COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
In terms of the critical issue of cancellation, which has been flagged by SA Rugby as a consideration:
13. Cancellation or postponement: SARES does not guarantee that any Match (or Event) for which Hospitality Package(s) are sold will take place, at the date, time and Venue stated on the Hospitality Package purchased. SARES reserves the right to make alterations to the time, date, duration and Venue of any Match (or other Event) in the event of unforeseen or other circumstances, including (without limitation), Force Majeure, safety and security concerns or decisions from any competent authority. In the event of such alteration, neither SARES nor the Authorised Agents will be liable for any costs, expenses or other losses resulting from such alteration. As soon as possible after SARES determines postponement, rescheduling or cancellation of any Match, all available information will be posted on https://tickets.lionstour2021.com/ but it is the responsibility of the Client to ascertain whether a Match has been postponed, rescheduled or cancelled and ascertain any new dates, times and venue.
Should the event, due to force majeure or for any reason beyond SARES’ reasonable control; • Be cancelled more than 10 (ten) days prior to the event, SARES undertakes to refund full purchase price of the Hospitality Package; • Be cancelled less than 10 but more than 3 days prior to the event, SARES will refund 50% (fifty percent) of the purchase price; • Be cancelled less than 3 days prior to the event, SARES will refund 25% (twenty-five percent) of the purchase price;
And if the client should wish to cancel?
14. Non-Payment and cancellation by the Client: If the Client wishes to cancel the Hospitality Package, after SARES has conﬁrmed the booking, SARES shall be entitled to charge a cancellation fee as follows:
• if the Client notiﬁes SARES (or the Authorised Agent) of the cancellation, more than one hundred and eighty (180) days prior to the first Match of the Tour SARES shall levy a 20% cancellation fee and the Client shall receive a refund of the balance of the purchase price within thirty (30) business days from date of confirmation of cancellation by SARES or the Authorised Agent; • if the Client notiﬁes SARES (or the Authorised Agent) of the cancellation less than one hundred and eighty (180) days but more than ninety (90) days prior to the Match of the Tour, SARES shall levy a 50% cancellation fee and the Client shall receive a refund of the balance of the purchase price within thirty (30) business days from date of confirmation of cancellation by SARES or the Authorised Agent; or • if the Client notifies SARES of the cancellation less than ninety (90) days prior to the first Match of the Tour, SARES shall levy a 100% cancellation fee and the Client will receive no refund whatsoever.
The sales contract also makes clear that SARES reserves the right to update and change the terms and conditions at their discretion.
The DAIMANI Journal’s two-cents worth:
These provisions fairly reflect the new reality that we will all be operating in, as and when Live Events. It may seem hard to read these words: ‘SARES [and the Authorised Agent] cannot prevent any Attendees from becoming exposed to, contracting, or spreading COVID-19 or any other communicable disease while attending a Match. It is not possible to prevent against the presence of the disease.’
That clause from SARES may state matters rather frankly. But it remains the truth at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic. So let’s embrace the new normal.