TV millions to watch Lions in Whangarei

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An estimated 23 million television viewers worldwide will watch the Lions' first match at Toll Stadium on June 3. Photo / Tanya White

By Imran Ali

An estimated 23 million television viewers throughout the world will watch the British and Irish Lions' opening match against New Zealand Provincial Barbarians at Toll Stadium in Whangarei.

Preparations are under way to erect temporary stands to cater for 22,000 fans, including up to 2000 Lions' fans, at the ground on game day - the largest crowd since the new grandstand was built before the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Only about 3500 general admission tickets remained yesterday morning for the June 3 clash to kickstart the Lions' 10-match tour of New Zealand.

Northland Rugby Union chief executive Alistair McGinn said 23 million people watching the match would not only give the game but the region a huge boost in terms of tourism.

"Northland will be so well publicised and the economic benefits would be enormous. That's why everything we do, not just the match, but other things in terms of promoting the game has to be perfect.

"It won't just be a match but an event so there's a huge opportunity for Northland to showcase its potential and if it's done well, we will give ourselves a chance to host future NZRU games," he said.

Mr McGinn said it took several years of planning to host a team such as the Lions which only tours to New Zealand once every 12 years.

"This match will be run like a test match. Everything will be microscoped and analysed and that's why very intensive planning has gone into it. It's going to be quite an outstanding occasion."

Mr McGinn urged people to buy their tickets sooner as there could be a last-minute rush from undecided fans. All accommodation in Whangarei on the night of the game has been booked out.

The Whangarei District Council has teamed up with the New Zealand Motorhome Association and provided parking for 170 self-contained campervans with fulltime security at three locations.

One hundred giant flags to promote the Lions' series were hung last week at popular tourist spots in Whangarei.

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