RL Alive – Venues: Right Or Wrong

Every Rugby League fan knows one thing about our game. That thing is, if its not broke then somebody will break it. Even if you think that statement is exaggerated, you know there is some truth in it.

You could even extend the statement to, if it is broke somebody will make it worse.

The second statement would apply to St George-Illawarra Dragons and their venue choices for the coming season.

According to Wikipedia, The Dragons averaged crowd figures of 12,423 for the 2013 NRL season. This leaves the club 12th out of the 15 NRL clubs in Australia. The club averaged in excess of 15,000 from 2009-2012.

The club seems to have come to the conclusion that to improve these numbers they should play more games at the Sydney Football Stadium and the Sydney Cricket Ground. The thinking seems to be ‘more seats, more fans, more money’.

I 100% totally disagree with this idea. The fan base of each club in the Sydney area is based in the suburb that they inhabit. Clubs must concentrate on and maximise those suburbs before they want to branch out.

The Dragons are in a fairly unique situation considering they are a merger club and have commitments to two different grounds. I imagine that it must be frustrating for a Dragons fan to have to travel to 2 different grounds for home games.

So why alienate parts of the fan base even more by messing around in the other grounds? In my opinion two things will bring crowds, success on the field and connection to the community. Success on the field is never guaranteed and at this rate the Dragons will have no connection with the community.

I think it has been proven over the years that fans don’t want to travel to the Olympic Stadium or the Sydney Football Stadium. Yes, at times they can stomach it for big games but not for normal regular season games.

You will see games in the middle of the season that have been moved to the bigger grounds and they don’t generate a bigger crowd than at Parramatta Stadium or Brookvale Oval. So why do it?

This annoys the suburban fans and is off-putting for the casual television viewer. The NRL will put some kind of spin on the situation but in reality everybody knows that they and the clubs are out of order.

If we look to the future of the game, a lot of people mention that eventually the smaller grounds will be fazed out in favour of the bigger stadiums. If that does happen it should only be in the case of supply and demand.

The freak always mentions the possibility of having a purpose built Rugby League stadium in Sydney. Basically a Sydney version of Suncorp Stadium.

I like the idea to a certain extent because nobody really wants to play at the graveyard (Olympic Stadium) or travel to the SFS.

In an ideal world, I have my own idea. This is what I would do…

South Sydney Rabbitohs would find a location as close to Redfern as possible and construct a modern venue. This venue and the Rabbitohs club would become the heart and soul of the community. In my opinion they could sell out a 40,000 seat stadium every week if based in Redfern.

The same thing could be done with the Bulldogs in Belmore.

Wests Tigers could do something similar but to a smaller degree. They would have to bite the bullet and commit to a single location where they could build from. They are in a very similar position to the Dragons.

Manly could build a quality venue in the northern beaches area, but there would be opposition from the Rugby Union community.

If the idea was to come to fruition then serious private investment would be needed. It is unrealistic but it could happen.

I don’t include Penrith or Parramatta because I think Parramatta Stadium is good enough for the Eels and I know the Panthers have their own plans for development in progress.

The Dragons have to make their minds up about their future. They have to commit to a location and build from there. The SCG, SFS and Olympic Stadium are not the answer.

Am I right or Wrong?

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