I always find it interesting to look at crowd numbers in Australia sports because they are influenced by so many different variables.
One thing I have never been able to understand is the way Rugby League in Australia looks at crowd numbers, and more specifically, growing those crowd numbers.
Considering that Rugby League in Australia is one of the three most popular sports in the country, and shows that it can demand a national audience for its biggest games, I always find it fascinating when the average crowd figures come out at the end of each season and the games administrators are happy that crowds grew by just a few hundred extra people per game. It seems to be setting the bar really low to be.
If you look at the A League soccer crowds over the last couple of weeks, it shows you why.
Here is a sport that in Australia is no where near as popular as Rugby League. The quality of the competition is not all that great and for the most part, the A League is still trying to convince the wider sporting public to invest their time and effort into becoming a fan of the competition.
Their crowds range from OK to very poor, and yet over the first two rounds of the competition we have seen some teams being able to add tens of thousands of extra fans to their regular attendances.
Some of that obviously comes from the excitement of a new season, and a few big name imports have also helped draw more through the gates, but this isn’t just about trickery.
If you can get 30,000+ to a soccer game at the Sydney Football Stadium between Sydney and Newcastle, why can’t you get anywhere close to that for most Rugby League games played there?
If the A League has the ability to boost their attendances by so much, why can’t Rugby League do that?
This isn’t a case of Rugby League reaching a saturation point with its market either, there are simply tens of thousands of Rugby League supporters that do not turn up to most game, and we need to be asking why that is.
Facilities and transport are a factor, but then again it didn’t stop soccer fans from battling traffic to get to their game did it? It is not like stadium capacity is an issue for Rugby League teams as many would have more empty seats than filled at points of the season.
Something just isn’t working in the way the NRL is marketing games.
If you took any Sydney club, and you could put together a marketing campaign that boosted their attendance by 2,000 per match, you would do wonders for that club. For most teams, just 2,000 extra people would be the difference between being seen as a battler to being one of the big guns.
It is not like that fans aren’t there! It isn’t as though NRL clubs need to convince someone to take an interest in Rugby League to boost those numbers. If clubs were just able to convince their own fans to turn up, crowds would go through the roof.
I really think this is something the NRL needs to think about and get some outside help with. The current marketing of the game just isn’t hitting the mark, and with the incredible coverage the NRL gets through all forms of media, slight increases in crowds should be seen as a failure when there is such a massive capacity to grow crowd numbers.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
Jan 11, 2020 0