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

By Lachlan Roberts 16 May 2018 62

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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62 Responses to
Brumbies chief warns small crowds might call full-time on ACT Super Rugby team
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JC 6:12 pm 18 May 18

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.

Wally Bechara 9:03 am 18 May 18

Soccer killed union in Australia. There's too many football clubs in Australia. Loads more will be killed off in the next ten years

Mick John 2:07 am 18 May 18

Criticism of the stadium and coffee wait times have very little to do with it - if people love their code and their home team they’ll still go. The problem with Rugby, but particularly Canberra Rugby, is that the players who would like to grow up and continue to love it are pushed out of the sport by the stranglehold some private schools have over the local competition and player development. Talented and passionate young players who can’t access these private schools are played out of the game by the huge resource advantage of these schools and their rugby programs. These schools are not spending the $$$ to grow the game they’re doing it for their own reputation and enrolment numbers. The end result is code switching and low supporter base - 5,000 fans. Small clubs and country towns can’t attract players because their players parents get very disheartened watching their sons be belted by pseudo professional school teams who pay their Rugby coordinator the equivalent of ten years fundraising money for the other clubs. They switch codes. Soon Rugby will be dead

Rob Sanders 8:15 pm 17 May 18

Poorly revamping member pricing and seating; poor player recruitment; poor coaching; poor on field performance; BS scheduling (game night when Skyfire is on!?); games not on free to air TV (screw FoxTel), is it really a mystery?

Capital Retro 1:27 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.

Peter Major 1:20 pm 17 May 18

No great loss.

Anne Taylor 11:33 am 17 May 18

Start playing footy that's worth watching!!

Julia Ross 9:53 am 17 May 18

I know it was cold, but maybe the cost has a bit to do with it. It costs so much for a family to attend. A lot of people just can't afford it.

Craig Shipway 8:27 am 17 May 18

Why not push Fox for some afternoon games, when it is a balmy 12 degrees!

    Jenny Gordon Avery 8:36 am 17 May 18

    Raiders have those timelsots locked down. We are relegated to night games bar a few if we are lucky.

    Craig Shipway 8:44 am 17 May 18

    Maybe 1 per year.

    Tim Primmer 9:48 am 17 May 18

    SANZAR and the tv deals, not about catering for crowds

    Darryn Shannon 10:36 am 17 May 18

    People used to go to the Brumbies because we had some of the best players in the world. Gregan, Larkham, George Smith, Finnigan, Samo, Mortlock, Rathbone etc. They have maybe 1 or 2 household names now. They don't engage with the community at all. Add to this how much the price of membership is compared to the Raiders. You pay basically the same for 4 less games. Just like the raiders, when you had the best players the crowds would turn up. Also the Raiders haven't had a day game since the end of march and don't have one until 12th August.

Craig Shipway 8:26 am 17 May 18

How about Michael Thomson spends a few weeks down with the crowds! Maybe sitting in -3 temperatures, as opposed to his fully catered & heated lounge, will give him an idea of what we put up with. Poor food & drink choices, early closing outlets, disappearing outlets (Brumbies Bar ). It took me 22 minutes to get a coffee at the Crusaders game.... I was 4th in line!

    Trevor Hancock 4:45 pm 17 May 18

    Hi Craig,

    As a pretty crazy fan & on the Committee of a local Junior Rugby Club, I actually have met Michael & I can safely say that I have run into him around the inner bowl on at least half our home games... He isn’t one to be up in a heated lounge as you suggested...

    Although I do agree that the GIO Stadium facilities does need an upgrade, & more coffee providers would be nice too

    Craig Shipway 8:17 pm 17 May 18

    Trevor.... ask him about getting a bite of the doubles tickets. I tried to get it shared around the junior clubs when I was a committee member years ago. Wests have a monopoly on it.

Capital Retro 8:01 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.

Corey Karl 7:46 am 17 May 18

That’s the way, threaten the crowds with removal of the team !!!! Here’s an idea, threaten the underperforming team, threaten the stadium that closes most of the food and drink outlets before half time, threaten the gov whom we pay $10 for the privilege of parking in a paddock !!! Sort all that rubbish out and people might come back !!!

Ben Jones 6:24 am 17 May 18

Canberra fans only turn up if your winning. End of story

Christopher Goyne 12:32 am 17 May 18

Move to dapto

barnsey 10:18 pm 16 May 18

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?

Michael Doyle 10:09 pm 16 May 18

You want people to turn up? then give them something to come for. Your product (top level rugby) is on the nose! - and you've then got the gall to go bleating round town for a new football stadium! You're that full of yourself in Super Rugby, it beggars belief!😀

    Tim Primmer 9:45 am 17 May 18

    Everyone knows an enclosed oval would benefit the sporting community, it’s not a fix but it would be better than the light rail..

    Michael Doyle 1:27 pm 17 May 18

    Tim Primmer 👍your light rail comments are spot on!😃

Margaret Freemantle 10:01 pm 16 May 18

No adrenaline fix at Brumbies games- the missing ingredient . We need some excitement, that is everything and all we need and we will be back to crowds of 20,000

Gabriel Spacca 9:41 pm 16 May 18

Canberra crowds have always followed winners and abandoned teams when they stop winning.

When I first came to Canberra, the Canberra Cannons (remember them?), were the toast of the town. Then the NBL titles dried up and so did the support base.

Ditto Canberra Raiders. And now the Brumbies.

Sadly they’ll need to start winning again if they want to attract new fans.

Robert McMahon 9:37 pm 16 May 18

Maybe they might like to have a chat to the ARU about the extreme damage people like Folau are doing to the image of rugby. Don’t blame the Canberra community for reacting to the poor standards tolerated by the ARU.

barnsey 9:09 pm 16 May 18

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?

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