The long anticipated round one fixtures have come and gone. We saw some great footy, especially at Brookvale Oval when the Storm beat the Eagles in a golden point thriller, while the Dragons and Eels ran up big scores no one expected to see. The Sharks are in crisis, Newcastle have lost their best attacking weapon and oh, record low crowds were experienced across the board.
Some in the media have suggested this is due to seven games being played in Sydney, and although that may be somewhat true, being that the Broncos are generally the best supported club in the competition, there are bigger factors at play here.
Below is a list of the three most prevalent factors I believe are driving people to stay away from attending the footy, and as I dislike those who simply point out a problem with no intention to offer a suggestion, I have attached a suggestion on how to fix each. Feedback is very welcome:
Pricing: First and foremost is the ridiculous pricing of attending NRL games in 2014. I know the argument, it’s an elite competition and should charge as such, and compared to the large leagues across the world we get off pretty easy. That’s fine, when the demand is there. At the current pricing, it is not.
Last night I attended the Sharks vs Titans game, and was one of less than 10,000 people to do so. I paid $30 to sit on the hill. The CHEAPEST seated ticketing option was $35 to sit on the outer concourse. $30 also gets you admission to the seats on the alcohol free family hill. $30 is a ridiculous amount of money to stand on a piece of grass where your view is heavily obstructed.
For the record, the family hill seats have only just been re opened as general admin as the club failed to justify its decision to make it ticketed membership seats, as shown by the huge drop in membership numbers. The ASADA damaged Sharks are charging $30 to stand up for 80 minutes on a Monday night … Ludicrous!!!
Mates of mine attended the Sunday game at ANZ Stadium and mentioned that GA tickets were $27 for a Sunday afternoon game. Still not exactly cheap but the facilities, view, and demand for tickets were much higher than the horribly supported Monday Night borefest that was the Sharks vs Titans.
My Suggestion: Lower ticket prices across the board, and offer structured ticket prices. For instance, Monday Night games should ALWAYS be cheaper than weekend games (Friday included). Monday Night footy exists only for television viewership, the club’s hate hosting Monday Night games, and the majority of fans hate attending them. Ticket prices should also be weighted by demand. For instance, games against local derby sides on a Sunday afternoon should be priced at $30, while games against the out of town teams on a Monday night should be far, far cheaper.
Before anyone says ‘but this is difficult, how do we decide which teams attract higher ticket prices?’ I point to the fact the EPL, a much, MUCH larger competition than our NRL have been doing this for many years. Tickets for United vs West Brom are dirt cheap, while games against Man City are at a premium.
The NRL, and Fox Sports, should subsidise clubs who play in Monday Night games. Every time there is anything negative about the competition mentioned Mr David Smith reminds us of the billion dollar tv deal. Surely there’s $5,000 a week available to pass onto the clubs who host Monday Night footy. League’s clubs suffer, attendances suffer, and the team suffers as they aren’t buoyed by the big crowd that might have otherwise received.
Kick Off Times/Fixture Set Up: David Smith is the CEO of the NRL but he in no way runs the competition, the television stations run the competition. As many Channel 9 employees are quick to point out, the network shelled out huge dollars, it should have a say. This is true, but looking at the AFL’s even larger television deal, Channel 7 has very little say in kickoff times. They have been roughly the same for the past 20 years, with only the Sunday night twilight game being added recently to avoid Sunday afternoon congestion.
The fact that the season opener kicked off after 8pm on a work night is insanity. Channel 9 and the NRL advertise the kick off as 7:45, yet the teams ran out onto the field at 8pm. Late kick offs are a little more acceptable on a Friday Night when the majority of fans don’t have work on Saturday morning, and kids don’t have school on a Saturday.
Channel 9 pick the games they want for Friday night first, then Fox Sports pick their allocation, meaning we get a congestion of Broncos and Souths games on Friday Night. The reason for this is that they attract the most fans due to their large supporter bases. While the Broncos remain a one team town, expect the majority of Friday Nights to feature their games. While Souths boast massive numbers, the same applies.
On an aside, you can’t tell me the Manly vs Melbourne game shouldn’t have been the Sunday afternoon game. Two competition heavyweights and rivals clashed in front of a loud Manly crowd, surely it offered better quality than the Tigers and Dragons.
My Suggestion: Tell Channel 9 games MUST kick off at 7:30. By all accounts Channel 10 were willing to offer live Saturday afternoon footy and 7:30 kick offs, yet were overlooked. If 9 don’t like being told they can’t run a 45 minute run in after the late running Block every Friday Night, Channel 10 were there before, they’ll be there again. Monday Night footy is very important to the television deal as a it’s a big ratings grabber for Fox Sports. There’s probably not a lot you can do with this. Sunday night footy should be scrapped, except for days followed by a public holidays.
Transport: This is a tricky one as the NRL don’t have a whole lot of say here, but it’s definitely a big problem. Fans of the Dragons, Bunnies and Tigers have to travel up to an hour away from their home base to attend these late kicking off games. I have attended games that finish at 9;30, however once you line up to get onto the train, travel, change trains and head home it can be close to midnight.
ANZ is a brilliant stadium. Its facilities are first class, the view from any seat is top notch, but it’s too far away from anything else. I always catch the train to ANZ as anyone who has ever driven will have horror stories. You have to deal with the thousands travelling home from work on Friday Night and Monday night games. It can take you half an hour to turn off sometimes.
As for Allianz Stadium, the less said about the stadium’s parking and public transport the better. Parking is offensively priced and will cost you an hour of your time to exit when busy. Training to central to catch a bus that crawls for 15 minutes before dropping you off 15 minutes walk from the stadium’s entrance … it’s shambolic.
My Suggestion: ANZ Stadium games should be played on Saturday and Sunday only to avoid traffic. I know the bosses at Channel 9 would again dislike this as they love to have the Bunnies play every second Friday Night, however for fans who race the clock getting from work to the stadium in time it would be welcome relief. All trains should be free to ticketed members no matter which stadium they are heading to. As for Allianz Stadium, my suggestion is leave an hour travel time from your arrival at central station, and allow two hours when driving
Every day in the papers we read about how much money the NRL makes. How about cutting the people who support the game a break? Stand up to Channel 9 and the clubs and dictate the way your product is sold. Ensure the clubs are not demanding $30 for a general admission ticket on a Monday night to watch an injury depleted side take on a team from a thousand kilometres away. Supply and demand are the major factors of a free economy, but not the NRL.
Mr Smith, time to earn your massive salary and worry about more than the balance sheet. If the fans keep staying away your buddies at Channel 9 won’t be so happy to hand over a billion dollars to broadcast games in front of empty houses next time.
The owner of Monstasport, Daniel Nichols is one of the most prolific featured guest writers on League Freak's web site.
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