DURBAN, South Africa — It may be a must-have for every football fan at the World Cup, but major sports venues around the globe are trying to make sure the blare of vuvuzelas doesn’t catch on beyond South Africa.
The All England Club led the charge in discouraging the din of the plastic horns Thursday by banning them at this year’s Wimbledon tournament. German football club Borussia Dortmund followed suit, saying the instruments — which have become a symbol of the 2010 World Cup — won’t be welcome at matches next season.
While FIFA and local South African organizers are embracing the omnipresent drone of the cheap trumpets, other sports events certainly don’t seem too fond of them.
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“Out of courtesy to the players and their fellow spectators, we make a point of asking spectators not to bring items which could either cause a distraction or interfere with the enjoyment of the occasion,” All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie said. “Rattles, klaxons and vuvuzelas all fall into that category and they will not be allowed into the grounds. Our message is do not bring them in the first place.”
That sort of pre-emptive strike might be a wise move. With souvenir vuvuzelas selling for as little as $5, tens of thousands of fans are expected to return home from South Africa with a couple in their bags. In Britain, grocery store chain Sainsbury’s said it had sold 43,000 vuvuzelas at a cost of 2 pounds each — at a rate of one every two minutes.
But the constant drone during matches — often compared to the sound of a swarm of bees — has been a source of annoyance to both broadcasters and players.
Greece striker Fanis Gekas, speaking before his country earned a 2-1 win over Nigeria on Thursday, is among those who have called for them to be banned because they stop players from communicating on the field.
In Britain, an aid group which supports people with hearing impairments, praised the country’s BBC public broadcaster for trying to limit the background noise with its interactive viewing service.
A French cable TV channel, Canal+, is already offering vuvuzela-free broadcasts to subscribers, using frequency-splitting technology to block out the trumpets’ buzz while letting other sounds through.
Premier League clubs in England have yet to make a decision on the vuvuzelas, but Arsenal said using the horns was not against the rules at Emirates Stadium in north London — however, it added that it reserved the right to take any action required to safeguard the fans’ enjoyment of the game.
London mayor Boris Johnson took time out to blast a few notes on a vuvuzela during a visit to Cape Town this week — but poured cold water on the idea of having them at the 2012 London Olympics.
“It’s a wonderful thing. It’s a beautiful instrument,” Johnson said. “It’s very easy to master, but I don’t think we’ll necessarily be issuing them to the crowds.”