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.
“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.
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.”