20 Feb 2009

Outcry over huge financial loss on Beckham game

10:32 am on 20 February 2009

The Local Government minister and a rates campaign group have criticised Auckland Regional Council over the $1.79 million loss on last December's exhibition football match featuring David Beckham.

The match attracted only 16,600 spectators to Mt Smart Stadium, well short of what was needed to break even.

The Oceania All Stars game against Beckham's LA Galaxy was expected to be a cash cow.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide says the Auckland Regional Council had no business spending ratepayer's money on celebrities.

A campaigner from the group No More Rates, David Thornton, is horrified the loss is so high and says the game should never have been funded by the regional council in the first place.

Mr Thornton says in the end the ratepayer will bear the brunt of any loss.

Mt Smart is a business unit of the Auckland Regional Council and chief executive Peter Winder has labelled the match a commercial failure.

He says total revenue was less than half what was needed to break even.

Mr Winder says ticket prices were too high, the marketing didn't work, and the Oceania All Stars team were not appealing enough.

He says the loss will not have an impact on rates and immediate steps have been taken to review expenditure at Mt Smart.

The Auditor-General is investigating.