Daniel Nichols – NRL Crowds Are Down: Who/What is to Blame?

The crowd of 7, 803 at Centrebet Stadium to see the home side Penrith take on the World Champion Melbourne Storm capped off a poor weekend of crowd attendance for the NRL.

This week saw figures of:

12, 117 at The Titans vs. Dragons game

10, 453 in Canberra to see the Raiders belt Newcastle

11, 005 saw Parramatta beat The Broncos in a thriller

30, 112 in Wellington saw the Dogs run down the Warriors

9, 858 at Allianz to see the Sharks run away with it over the Tigers

15, 972 saw the table toping Bunnies beat the Cowboys

The Eagles will host the Roosters tomorrow night at Brookevale Oval in what should be a sell-out. The fact that it isn’t already is a worrying sign as the home side are flying high and the Roosters have started extremely well this season. The Roosters also boost the NRL’s number one drawcard.

Even if it is a sell-out of 23,000 (The official capacity, although I’ve been at Brookevale in a crowd of 19,000 and there was no way you could put another 4,000 in there) is achieved, this week’s NRL average attendance will be 15,000.

Considering the Bunnies were at home on a Friday Night and that the 30,000 crowd in Wellington was a one off for a rugby league starved city that average attendance is very concerning for NRL officials.

An all Sydney clash on Friday at Allianz arena attracted less than 10,000 fans. I can’t remember an AFL game in Melbourne attracting less than 10,000 fans, let alone one with two Melbourne teams facing off.

So who or what is to blame?

This week was unusual in that all but 2 home sides have been in fairly poor form (not taking into account The Eagles vs. Roosters game tonight). The Tigers were taken apart by the Dogs last week, Penrith fans probably expected to be beaten by 50, The Titans have been up and down all season, and The Eels are battling to escape the wooden spoon.

Canberra has been fairly consistent and are unbeaten at home whilst the Bunnies are flying high, and both crowds would be disappointing to their respective home sides.

South Sydney have over 25,000 registered members yet could only attract a crowd of 15,000 on a Friday night. The weather was good and the temperature hardly unbearable and the opposition was strong. The fact the Cowboys are not a local side obviously hurt the official attendance but cannot be the only reason for the low number.

The Tigers played a ‘home game’ in Allianz Stadium against the Sharks. Both fan bases had less than an hour to travel on, again, a nice night that was not overly cold. The Sharks contributed around 4,000 fans to the attendance meaning the Tigers only brought in a tad over 5,500 to a home game.

For mine, the biggest factor is the cost of attending a game. It cost $25 for a general admission ticket to Allianz Arena on Friday Night, which was a seat on the goal line. For a seat closer to half way you’re looking at $45 for an adult ticket. Hardly breaking the band but for those with a family you’re looking at $80 for a family of 4 in the standard area, $45 general admission.

Add to this the fact that a hot dog costs $5.40, hot chips $5.20 and a drink $4.00 and it suddenly adds up very quickly. If you’re looking for a beer be ready to hand over $7.00 for a mid-strength drink or $9.80 for a mid-strength spirit. (This doesn’t take into account the time and cost of travel)

My wife and son were at home on Friday Night and I didn’t have a beer so I escaped the trip for under $60. I also dropped $5 on a guide dog puppy donation and $2 on a first try scoring doubles but if I had taken the family and had a few beers there is no chance I would spend less than $100 on the night.

SURELY something has to be done about the price of going to the football, or crowds are going to continue to fall to embarrassing levels. Considering it costs nothing to turn on the television and watch the game on Channel 9, surely $25 for a general admin ticket is far too high.

For the $60 or so dollars I spend on a ticket, dinner, a lemonade and tickets in the doubles I could have stayed home, ordered a pizza, got a six pack and still had a $20 left over. Now I absolutely love the atmosphere and the game itself so I don’t mind dropping $60 on a Friday Night game of footy, especially when hitting the pub can cost easily double, but not everyone is as willing.

For the NRL to encourage fans to leave their living room and head to the game prices MUST come down. This goes for both tickets and food and drink. I realise the club has to make money off ticket sales, as does the venue on the price of food. Personally I’d rather see 20,000 fans in at $10 a ticket then 10,000 at $20 a ticket.

The atmosphere is better; the product looks better on television and the venue will sell far more in terms of food and drink, not to mention potential merchandise sales due to the increase in crowd numbers.

Of course the price of tickets and food is not the only factor, as just next door the Swans attracted a sold out crowd against the Geelong Cats ($30 a ticket, similar prices for food and drink) but I believe it is the main factor in people deciding not to head to the game.

The NRL has the product, the stadiums and the interest (TV numbers are huge) but they have not got the pricing right. Drop the price, offer 2 for 1s, make family tickets much cheaper, include travel in the price of tickets, do SOMETHING.

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