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

Lachlan Roberts 16 May 2018 47

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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47 Responses to Brumbies chief warns small crowds might call full-time on ACT Super Rugby team
JC 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.

Tom Coal Tom Coal 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 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 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 Peter Major 1:20 pm 17 May 18

No great loss.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor 11:33 am 17 May 18

Start playing footy that's worth watching!!

Julia Ross 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.

Capital Retro 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 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 Ben Jones 6:24 am 17 May 18

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

Christopher Goyne Christopher Goyne 12:32 am 17 May 18

Move to dapto

barnsey 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?

Margaret Freemantle 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 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.

    Ben Jones Ben Jones 6:25 am 17 May 18

    Bring back the Cannons !

    James Strang James Strang 12:09 pm 17 May 18

    Apparently the Raiders reckon they can get 20,000 members, although admit only 50% of current members attend the games.

Robert McMahon 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.

    Corey Karl Corey Karl 7:47 am 17 May 18

    What does that have to do with brumbies crowd numbers ???

    Tim Primmer Tim Primmer 9:43 am 17 May 18

    People still need to turn up and get behind our lads..

barnsey 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?

Brian Weiss Brian Weiss 8:38 pm 16 May 18

A few things really. We need a good fly half who can consistently perform. Perhaps move Banks there. A kicker who is up over 80%success.

Consistent line out wins. Tighten right defence. Stop kicking the ball away. Make the day more entertaining. Get new commentary team.

Run the ball more. It doesn’t matter now.

Cheaper tickets. More day games.

On a bigger level. Get scrums and line outs over as quick as possible. It takes too long to get a scrum result. Boring. Change the rules. No team can kick for goal until it had scored a try. Attacking footy.

Cheaper food and drinks. Better membership pricing.


Rodney TatStan Rodney TatStan 8:30 pm 16 May 18

Well the crowds are sooo into it. Last game I attended, they cheered more for halftime karaoke... Atmosphere zero.

Michael Langridge Michael Langridge 8:28 pm 16 May 18

Is anyone suprised?

Super rugby is only on peoples radar because of folau at the moment.

No fta games limit exposure.

Only on fox and no one cares. Dwarfed on tv viewership week to week compared to the NRL or AFL.

Dead sport walking

Tim Cole Tim Cole 7:39 pm 16 May 18

Move the games to Southwell Park so that the small crowd actually looks bigger.

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