New Zealan­ders keen to ‘adopt-a-Lion’ for tour

New Straits Times - - Sport -

WELLING­TON: An ap­peal for New Zealan­ders to “adopt-a-Lion” by bil­let­ing trav­el­ling fans dur­ing this year’s block­buster Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions tour has prompted an “over­whelm­ing” re­sponse, or­gan­is­ers have said.

More than 20,000 Lions sup­port­ers are ex­pected to travel south to see the Home Na­tions’ com­bined team take on the world cham­pion All Blacks for the first time since 2005.

But ac­com­mo­da­tion in the South Pa­cific na­tion has proved tight, par­tic­u­larly in the Test venues of Auck­land and Welling­ton, with re­ports of ex­or­bi­tant fees be­ing charged for rooms.

Wor­ried that die-hard Lions fans were be­ing priced out of a dream ex­pe­ri­ence, New Zealan­der Adam Gil­sh­nan launched a Face­book ap­peal for his fel­low Ki­wis to help out.

The “Un­of­fi­cial: Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions 2017 Tour To New Zealand” page called for of­fers of free rooms or even a spot for trav­el­ling fans to park their camper­vans.

“We Ki­wis like to think we’re fa­mous for our hos­pi­tal­ity, so we thought we’d put it out there,” Gil­sh­nan said.

“It’s just gone crazy and taken on a life of it’s own. It’s been a bit over­whelm­ing re­ally, I’m thrilled.”

Some New Zealand re­spon­dents have of­fered to host up to six fans, while Lions sup­port­ers have taken to Face­book to warmly praise the ini­tia­tive.

Gil­sh­nan, 44, was in­spired by his ex­pe­ri­ence host­ing Welsh fans dur­ing the last Lions tour to New Zealand 12 years ago.

They re­turned the favour dur­ing a sub­se­quent All Black tour to Bri­tain and Gil­sh­nan said life­long friend­ships were formed.

“That’s what we’d like to see here,” he said. “Ki­wis who are bil­let­ing fans, even if they’re not go­ing to any games them­selves, can get to know the fans, hear their sto­ries and feel part of the tour.”

The June 3-July 8 tour fea­tures 10 matches cov­er­ing the length and breadth of New Zealand, in­clud­ing three Tests.

Gil­sh­nan said both sets of sup­port­ers en­joyed a close re­la­tion­ship and it promised to be “rugby nir­vana.”

“There’s no seg­re­ga­tion like other sports, we’ll give each other a bit of stick dur­ing the match but shake hands at the end of it,” he said.

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