An exhibition game involving David Beckham was a commercial risk that cost New Zealand taxpayers almost NZ$2 million ($1.46 million) according to the country's chief watchdog over public expenditure.
Beckham, one of the most marketable athletes in sport, turned out for his L.A. Galaxy side in a match in Auckland in December 2008 but less than 15,000 fans turned out to watch. Beckham and the Galaxy had played a similar match in Wellington in 2007 and almost sold out Westpac Stadium.
The 2008 match was underwritten by the Auckland Regional Council, who asked the central government's Auditor General to conduct a review of the event and the report by deputy controller and Auditor General Phillippa Smith was released on Wednesday.
"The decision to promote the L.A. Galaxy event was made without a formal business strategy or a clear policy about the level of commercial risk that the council was willing to assume," Smith said. "We conclude that, despite the efforts of the council officers involved, the loss occurred because the L.A. Galaxy/Oceania 'All Stars' match was in essence the wrong event, at the wrong time, for the wrong price."
Council staff had budgeted for a break-even point at 25,000 tickets but the shortfall resulted in a loss of NZ$1.88 million for the council and residents in New Zealand's largest city.
"The people (the council officials) talked to were optimistic about the likely attendance at an exhibition football match involving LA Galaxy and estimated an attendance of 30,000 to 40,000," the report said.