Football fans must pay a record admission fee for a local women’s match to be part of history on 2 December 2014 when the Trinidad and Tobago senior national women’s football team faces Ecuador in the second and final leg of a Canada 2015 Women’s World Cup Play Off from 6 pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Trinidad and Tobago held Ecuador to a goalless draw at 2,700 metres above sea level in Quito for the first leg on 8 November 2014 and now needs a win at home on December 2.
Trinidad and Tobago has never qualified for a FIFA women’s tournament before although the two island republic participated in the 2010 Women’s Under-17 World Cup as the host nation.
And the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), based on advice from its Local Organising Committee (LOC), has set the ticket prices at $200 (covered stands) and $100 (uncovered stands) for the return leg with children under-12 free in the uncovered section. The tickets are due to go on sale from November 17 at still undisclosed outlets.
The admission fee of $200 and $100 mirrors the price for Trinidad and Tobago’s vital 2006 World Cup qualifier against Mexico on 12 October 2005 when Stern John’s double got the “Soca Warriors” into a FIFA Play Off against Bahrain. Tickets for that historic match, which also featured icons Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy, were sold out.
The price for Trinidad and Tobago’s first leg clash with Bahrain in 2005 rose to $300 (covered) and $150 (uncovered) and there were over 5,000 fewer spectators for the contest in Port of Spain.
The women’s game has never previously commanded a fee near to either sum.
Four years ago, local fans paid $40 (covered) and $20 (uncovered) to watch Trinidad and Tobago’s three group matches at the Women’s Under-17 World Cup.
And tickets were priced at $20 when the Women Warriors began their World Cup campaign on Wednesday 20 August 2014 with a 10-0 rout of St Kitts and Nevis at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Roughly 1,000 fans came out, then, to cheer on their women’s team.
There were just under 4,000 supporters for the women’s last Port of Spain outing in the Caribbean Cup final on Tuesday 26 August 2014, which was priced at $50.
But Phillips, who is a LOC member, believes that the heightened interest around the team and the importance of the fixture justifies the price spike.
“(The price) wasn’t arbitrarily made,” Phillips told Wired868. “It was talked about at length at a LOC meeting and everyone collectively felt that it was a good price point… The Caribbean Cup was three months ago and a lot has changed since then in terms of the knowledge of the women’s programme.
“It was also one of the first tournaments we had hosted… So you cannot compare the CFU tournament to a World Cup qualifier.”
Responses to the prices on the social media thus far have been muted but, generally, positive.
Phillips claimed that the revenue gained from the upcoming fixture would help further develop the women’s game.
“You cannot speak about raising the level of women’s football in one breath and then say it cannot demand a higher fee because that is the way it is always done,” said Phillips. “You have to look at it as a case by case situation. And this is a women’s team at the cusp of the World Cup and a very good team.”
But does the inflated women’s ticket prices, whether reasonable or not, run the risk of diminishing the volume of supporters for the crucial World Cup Play fixture?
Since most of Ecuador’s women players come from its coastal regions, Trinidad and Tobago’s temperature and humidity are not expected to create difficulties for “La Tricolor.” Apart from the ability, desire and preparation of the two teams, fan support represents the best chance of an advantage for the host nation.
In Quito, the Ecuador Football Federation (FEF) charged US$2 (TT$13) and US$5 (TT$32) for uncovered and covered stand tickets and US$10 for private boxes and was thrilled for a turnout of 17,500 patrons. Outside the Atahualapa Stadium, by means of context, it costs between US$5 and $10 for a meal at the mall.
However, Phillips dismissed any notion that the TTFA should mirror Ecuador’s approach in the first leg.
“That is Ecuador; Ecuador is not Trinidad and Tobago,” said the TTFA General Secretary. “We based our discussion based on feedback we got from the folks in Trinidad and Tobago. That was good and appropriate for Ecuador…
“When the tickets go on sale on Monday that is when the market will speak. But people are waiting to buy tickets and we already have pre-orders… So the overriding issue is the importance of the game and the level of excitement from the public.”
Phillips said the TTFA will pay match fees to the women’s team for the first time on December 2 while there is a bonus arrangement in place with the players should they qualify. He said the gate receipts will help to cover those costs.
“This is the first time the team has found itself in this position where they captured the hearts and minds of the nation,” said Phillips, when asked why there was a different pay scale for the upcoming game, “and it is the first time they are in the position where they are one win away from the World Cup. This is a big deal.”
In fact, the Women Warriors were one match away from the World Cup twice already when they played Costa Rica and then Mexico in last month’s 2014 CONCACAF Championship semi-finals and third place play off.
The FIFA Play Off is the last chance for the team, which overcome chaotic preparation with the dramatic technical staff alterations, visa issues that affected its pre-Caribbean Cup camp and, most famously, when the Warriors left for the pre-CONCACAF camp with just US$500 and no accompanying match officials.
Today, Phillips thinks the women’s squad, which is captained by Maylee Attin-Johnson and led by coach Randy Waldrum, can become the country’s second flagship team along with the senior men.
“This could be the launch pad game for the women’s team to be another flagship team for the national program,” he said.
Between 1,200 and 4,000 supporters turned out to watch the national men’s team play in the Caribbean Cup qualifying phase in Couva last month with prices set at $100 (covered) and $60 (uncovered).
The TTFA will soon know whether the women’s team, which is contesting a World Cup place rather than a Caribbean Cup crown, can surpass that level of interest. And whether the football body’s pricing of the upcoming contest is fair.
“We believe a crowd of 12,000 to 15,000 people will be a success, based upon past audiences,” said Phillips. “We would be happy with that amount going into the match. But we do believe this game has real potential to be a sell-out.”
The Hasely Crawford holds roughly 6,000 patrons in the covered stands and 16,000 in uncovered. If 4,000 covered tickets are sold and 8,000 uncovered, the TTFA will raise $1.6 million from the decisive December 2 affair.
Theoretically, if tickets were sold a $100 and $50 and 20,000 patrons (6,000 covered and 14,000 uncovered) turned up; the TTFA could raise $1.3 million, which would represent a $300,000 loss but with a near full stadium.
Of course, there is no proof that the ticket price would be the decisive factor in whether fans come out to the Tuesday evening contest.
The TTFA and the national women’s team are counting on supporters to turn up in their numbers on December 2 to roar them into the history books as the first Caribbean team to qualify for a FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Editor’s Note: Tickets for the T&T/Ecuador W/Cup Play Off are on sale at: all Kenny’s Sports Centre outlets, Trotter’s (Maraval Road, Port of Spain), Skinner Park (San Fernando), The Fan Club (Movietowne, Mucurapo), Ramsingh’s Sporting Goods (Chaguanas), All Out (Queen’s Park Oval), Econo Supermarket (Sangre Grande) and Heritage Sport (Scarborough).