16 May 2018

Brumbies chief warns small crowds might call full-time on ACT Super Rugby team

| Lachlan Roberts
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Michael Thomson said he was disappointed with the turnout on Saturday night. Photo: Photox – Canberra Photography Services

Brumbies CEO Michael Thomson says that if the Brumbies only get 5,000 fans for their home matches for the next three seasons the team might be no more.

Thomson spoke after the Brumbies’ second-worst home crowd in club history, with just 5,283 fans turning up to watch their devastating loss to the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday in icy conditions.

The only crowd smaller than last Saturday’s night meagre turnout was the 4,000 fans who turned up in torrential rain in 1999 to see the Brumbies annihilate the South African Bulls side 73-9.

A Rugby League World Cup match between lightweights France and Lebanon in October last year attracted more fans (5,492) at GIO Stadium than Saturday’s Super Rugby game, which is a travesty for a match that had a huge significance on the standings in the Australian conference and the Brumbies’ chances of playing finals this season.

The rows and rows of empty seats on Saturday night was a long way from the heydays of the Brumbies Super Rugby finals against the Crusaders with the stadium packed out with 28,000 fans, and Mr Thomson said that if small turnouts continued for the coming seasons, the Brumbies might be no more.

“It is without question that if we get 5,000 fans coming to games for the next three years that we won’t be here anymore because it is economically unsustainable,” he said.

The CEO believes the old stadium, with minimal-covered seating, and cold, wet nights, along with a team not winning games were major factors in the poor turnout.

Michael Thomson believes that an indoor stadium would improve attendance at Brumbies home matches. Photo: Supplied by Brumbies Rugby.

“We were disappointed on Saturday night about the result and the small crowd but it was due to a combination of things,” Mr Thomson said.

“The weather on Friday and Saturday was cold and miserable, the team isn’t playing as well as we hoped and that added with an old stadium culminated in the poor turnout.”

Mr Thomson admitted that an indoor stadium in the city would improve the fans’ experience, pointing to Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin as an example of the benefits of having an indoor stadium, but admitted the Government had other financial pressures to handle first.

“The ACT Government has financial pressures with light rail and Mr Fluffy but we are happy the Government is considering a new stadium,” he said.

Coach Dan McKellar said in the post-match press conference that it was sad to see the stands empty at GIO Stadium.

“It’s really sad to be honest, as a rugby union person,” he said.

“It was obviously a cold, damp evening. Everyone in this room and here tonight wants the game to be thriving. The reality is at the moment it isn’t. Certainly, our form is playing a part in that and I’ve got to front up and take ownership of that 100 per cent and I will never hide away from that.

“But it is a bit sad. I want our boys playing in front of 15,000 people, people that I know care about them and I know there are a lot of people that weren’t here tonight that do care about the Brumbies and will support the Brumbies through and through.”

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I’m probably the kind of person the brumbies need.

My problem is not with the brumbies as such hit the way Rugby in the country is being run and administered. It’s just so stale and boring I am not going to spend a dollar to go see a game.

The ARU needs a good clean out and hopefully within a few short years the excitement and interest in the game will go up.

And whilst not the best place Bruce is getting a tad run down and being so open has never really had a good atmosphere (same with the Olympic Stadium in Sydney). But the stadium is a minor issue compared to the overall administration of the game.

Capital Retro1:27 pm 17 May 18

With the Brumbies major sponsors Aquis and ActewAGL withdrawing as major ones 2 years ago I wonder how much of ACT ratepayers money is now being channelled through CBR to support them.

Capital Retro8:01 am 17 May 18

Someone has claimed the ARU needs to do something about the damage Israel Folau is doing to the image of the ARU.

I must have missed something. Was is drunkenness, assault or theft he was charged with?

I don’t even recall him getting a yellow card, in fact he is one of the few consistent best and fairest players left in the code.

I will tell you why I think it is really concerning for the Brumbies and a clear indication that the club is in real trouble. Do yourself a favour and jump on the Brumbies and raiders social media accounts (instagram, facebook, Twitter) have a look at the last 20 or so posts from each organisation. The posts are very similar in terms of content but the level of engagement is worlds apart. The raiders posts get at least 30 times more likes, comments and shares. They both have a similar amount of followers. For a simple man like myself this would indicate that nobody really cares what the Brumbies are doing it saying? Happy to be corrected or proven wrong of this is not the case?

Agree with all of the comments. Winning is far from the answer. Weather plays a factor for sure but not to the extent that the ceo is claiming. What is the answer? Or is there no answer and the club disappears?

I can’t believe that Brumbies fans keep turning up at all. The stadium is okay and Canberrans aren’t surprised by adverse weather conditions. I actually attended the Brumbies v Crusaders game and the second most shocking thing after the $10 parking fee was the attitude and demeanour of the Brumbies team. I sat in the stands with most of the patrons around me bedecked in their Brumbies gear. All I heard all night were..”Not another scrum!” and moans,primarily when the Brumbies were in possession. The team’s negative tactics and mindless ambling to lineouts gave the impression they, rather than the fans, didn’t want to be there. They appeared to be playing by numbers and robotically going through the motions. If that was the game plan then blame the coaches. It could have been the lack of numbers in the stands but that is more a function of their colourless play than the condition of the stadium or weather. Get down to Phillip Ice Rink and watch a sell out crowd turn up to every home game in a facility challenged tin shed full of ice during winter and see the effect that a CBR Brave Ice Hockey team that plays with passion has on their fans and attendance. If attendance is the measure of requiring a new facility, then surely the Canberra Ice Hockey and Ice Sports community deserve a new Ice Rink before the Brumbies and Raiders get to waste public money on a new stadium that would be even more embarassing when less than 10000 turn up due to mediocre play and less than acceptable ‘professional’ attitudes.

I admit to being a fair weather supporter of the Brumbies, regularly attending in the glory days. I was even a member for a couple of seasons in the early 2000s. But I don’t blame anyone for not going these days. The whole sport is in major crisis, with all Australian teams performing poorly and a huge void in superstar drawcard players. For the average viewer it’s a very slow and frustrating game to watch, with so much time spent resetting scrums and guys standing around having a drink every other minute when there’s a break in play. In contrast AFL continues to thrive as a live sport because they’ve gradually refined the rules to create non-stop action.

Typical of Rugby in Australia more generally – its always someone else’s fault…..

People will only go to the footy if its good to watch – and the brumbies are far from that at the moment. Rugby as a broader product is in plenty of trouble too – people don’t connect with the complexity of the super rugby competition, and the Australian teams are simply not competitive overall.

A new stadium might help get a few more fair weather fans through the door, but its not going to fix the fundamental problems with the Brumbies.

So much for a new beginning with the huge leg up provided to them by the Government with the deal for their previous HQ and its redevelopment. Seems inept management continues….

Capital Retro10:54 am 16 May 18

I think Michael Thomson is being optimistic that the Brumbies (and rugby union in its current form) can last another 3 seasons.

And having a new stadium isn’t going to make any difference.

Give me a break!!!!!! I am sick of weather being used as an excuse. If the product was good people would do anything to be there. The match day experience is horrible. The CEO and board should all take a good hard look in the mirror, what have each of them done to make the organisation a stronger place?. What is the long term strategy for the Brumbies? Is there a strategic plan? Have a look at how many AFL clubs have it on their website so the fans and supporters can buy into it. How are they going to be sustainable in a very cluttered sporting landscape? Over the past 5 years it seems to be one thing after another with Brumbies management. All I hear the new CEO say is that they a re-connecting with the community? What does this even mean? Is it working? I ts really sad to see such a great organisation go down like this.

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