There are too many teams in Sydney. If there arent too many teams, then there are too many games. If its not that, then its Origin. This mornings NRL media pundits – Mascord and Rothfield – in both Fairfax and News Corp papers are trotting these lines out this morning. and all because of some lower than hoped for crowds.
Im not a Rugby league man. Most people who follow me are aware of this, but these statements are crap – just as they are when they are said about the AFL clubs in Melbourne, but thats another story
For a start – they need to stop looking at the AFL. Its attendances are something of an anomaly in Australia, rather than the norm – and besides, NRL crowds are double that of the next major Rugby league competition – Superleague – and comparable to every Rugby Union compettion in the world, including Top 14 in France, Super Rugby in Australia, and the Aviva Premiership in the UK.
The memberships the clubs began pushing in earnest just 5 years ago are really starting to come into their own, with records tumbling year on year, and given half decent venues and scheduling will go a long way to ensuring solid attendance figures in future.
Yes there is cause for concern for some crowds, but a LOT of it comes down to scheduling and venue choices. For a variety of reasons, people hate the biting winter wind and rain, especially with live league on TV and Fox in your warm lounge or pub, and folks hate going to a souless and massively oversized ANZ Stadium which is rarely at more than 30% of capacity for season games and lacks atmosphere. Thursday night fixtures arent great for attendances, and the early Friday fixture is loathed by all and sundry, although on this years figures not quite as much as Monday nights were.
For a start Id look at making all night fixtures required to be played at a modern facility with adequate shelter from the elements. – for the time being these options are limited without using the SCG or Spotless Stadium but thankfully in the not too distant future this will include a renewed Parramatta Stadium as well as ANZ Stadium and the SFS. Theres no reason your traditional stadiums still cant be used for Saturday and Sunday day/early evening matches. The Parramatta, SFS and ANZ stadium developments have huge potential for Rugby league – and other sports that use those facilities. It’d be a shame to fire a club thats helped prop up Rugby league for so long before they can really take advantage of these.
One writer wants a new Brisbane club so badly he’d sacrifice a Sydney club for it. A new Brisbane or WA club should be propped up by its own attendances and reasonable tv ratings – and subsequent funds, not the corpses of the traditional heartland League clubs that made League great.
So some of the old clubs need a loan or a top up of their funding every now and then? Isnt that a just and fair reward for having served decades as faithful stewards of the sport and its supporters, many of whom lived through Superleague and survived the bloodletting and mergers afterward.