No excuses! It’s time to fill Canberra Stadium and back the Brumbies

Tim Gavel 27 April 2021 21
Brumbies and fans

The Brumbies have done everything they can to attract crowds back to Canberra Stadium, including an open training session heading into the finals series. Photo: Brumbies Media/Rian Murphy.

There’s been a theory floated over the years that to financially break even, the Brumbies and the Raiders would need crowds over 10,000.

So far this season, the Brumbies haven’t broken that 10,000 benchmark, with crowds hovering around 9,000. It’s hard to see how that’s financially sustainable.

Despite this, the Brumbies continue to be a dominant force in world rugby, with the team brand globally admired.

Credit needs to be directed towards coach Dan McKellar and CEO Phil Thomson, given the unique issues faced by the club in the past two seasons.

Brumbies in training

Brumbies in training. Photo: Brumbies Media/Rian Murphy.

Bushfires, smoke and COVID-19 have hit the team hard and kept many fans away, yet the Brumbies remain a dominant force.

The hope is that supporters will reward the team for their resilience with a strong turnout on Saturday night.

It may be aspirational given the battle faced by the code nationally to return to the standing it once occupied in Australian sport.


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Rugby Australia this week released a statement touting an increase in television ratings, crowds and registrations this season. A return to free-to-air television, with a live game every Saturday night, has been a boon for the sport, as has the lifting of COVID restrictions.

But in a general sense, in Canberra, we are still a long way from the so-called glory days.

In the records of the biggest crowds at Canberra Stadium, the Brumbies occupy the top two positions. The 2004 final against the Crusaders attracted a crowd of 28,753, and the game against the Waratahs in 2005 drew 27,040 to the game.

It was the hottest ticket in town.

So why haven’t the crowds returned this season on the back of the team winning the Super Rugby AU final against Queensland last year?

Brumbies' crowds

The Brumbies have not managed to draw large crowds to Canberra Stadium despite considerable effort and great on-ground play. Photo: Tim Gavel.

The Raiders have shown that fans will go to Canberra Stadium to watch sport: 20,000 turned out to watch them play Parramatta last month.

Mind you, it took the Raiders a generation to get the crowds back after Super League. And that was followed by several disappointing seasons sprinkled with some success, but not enough to garner interest.

The Brumbies have shed the conservative nature of the Jake White era and the team is playing open attractive rugby.

Perhaps there exists a hangover from the White era when, despite making the Super Rugby final, the Brumbies struggled to find a crowd.

Complaints about the high price of attending a game have been responded to. You can take a family of four to the game this Saturday night for $40.00. That’s much cheaper than taking a family to the local movie theatre! And the Brumbies significantly reduced the price of membership for the season to encourage fans to return to the game.

It could be a reaction to the constant negative publicity surrounding the game, with many who make a living off the sport only too happy to sink the boot in criticising everything from the administration to the playing style.

Much has also been said over the years about the disconnect between the Brumbies and the grassroots rugby community. I do believe this is very much historical though, with the organisation far more engaged with community rugby than it was in the past when grassroots support seemed to be taken for granted.

Tom Ross

One of the local recruits to the Brumbies squad, Tom Ross. Photo: Brumbies Media/Rian Murphy.

The argument that not enough locally bred and nurtured players are in the team has been blown out of the water as well.

The sight of Brumbies players turning out for local club teams in the John I Dent Cup has lifted the standard of the competition and generated expectation.

To be frank, there is no reason why fans shouldn’t be flocking to Canberra Stadium.

Excuses for not attending are running thin with the team playing well, they have made it into the finals, and they have engaged extensively with the community.

Everything that was deemed to be a hurdle is in the past.


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21 Responses to No excuses! It’s time to fill Canberra Stadium and back the Brumbies
Ben Edwards Ben Edwards 10:37 pm 29 Apr 21

Will be lucky to get 10000! Union is dying a slow painful death in this country! Sad!

    Andrew Tye Andrew Tye 11:56 am 30 Apr 21

    Ben Edwards record viewers and record registrations suggest otherwise. Review recent figures.

    Ben Edwards Ben Edwards 1:20 pm 30 Apr 21

    Andrew Tye where are people watching it?? Fox dropped it because no one was watching it and it’s not on free to air is it? I haven’t seen it on at pubs or clubs.

    The only figures I saw today was how much union has lost in this country over the past 12 months! Almost went back to being an amateur sport!

    If it was so popular why aren’t games on free to air and being played in front of pack stadiums?

    Andrew Tye Andrew Tye 1:34 pm 30 Apr 21

    Refer; rugby.com 26 March. Over 140 percent increase in TV viewers and an increase over 16 percent in registrations. Far from a dying sport. The complete opposite.

    Andrew Tye Andrew Tye 1:39 pm 30 Apr 21

    Ben Edwards 26 April rugby. com

    Ben Edwards Ben Edwards 1:40 pm 30 Apr 21

    Andrew Tye I’m confused then. Why the article today about how much they have lost as a code?

    Also with Stan they gave everyone a free 1 month trial. Would like to see the stats for after that free month.

    Union grow kids and then drop them. Look at Angus Crichton and billy smith both at the roosters. Grown talent in union that they don’t keep. It’s a major concern.

    Andrew Tye Andrew Tye 2:08 pm 30 Apr 21

    Ben Edwards so you read the article. Good. Angus was told by the Waratahs that it would be a few years before he would get a look in. The Roosters offered him a full contract. Which he took. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries again to get into Union. A lot more money for the elite in Union.

    Ben Edwards Ben Edwards 2:57 pm 30 Apr 21

    Andrew Tye don’t disagree that he could go back, however the point being how can they pay the big money when they have to cut costs right across the board? When players salaries go down like they have said today, those players will follow the money. League will take them which drains the talent pool and then the flow on effect will happen. Sponsors drop away, tv deals, fans, and so on.

    20 years ago rugby in Australia was huge, I remember going to brumbies games with a full house every week. Now it’s a ghost town, it’s a code stuck miles behind AFL and nrl in this country, it’s sad!

cooyong26 cooyong26 9:32 am 28 Apr 21

The author needs to recognise that union has slipped entirely from the public mind. Want to know where the brumbies fan of old are? They were at Manuka last Friday night.

AAron Powell AAron Powell 8:51 am 28 Apr 21

The brumbies have no marketing team...and if they do what do they do?? never hear of games on the radio, tv, out in the community.

    Johnny Grey Johnny Grey 12:10 am 29 Apr 21

    I hear about their games on the radio but always AFTER the game.

Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 8:10 am 28 Apr 21

We will be there this Saturday! We will be painting faces in Brumbies colours and selling raffle tickets! Can’t wait to see you all there!

harcm harcm 8:02 am 28 Apr 21

I would happily go to the game if it was possible to see it all. However, a very large percentage of the time I am left looking at the backs of the people in front of me. They stand up as the ball gets close to the try line, ensuring that only they (and perhaps the ref) can see the try being scored. Then there is the constant procession of people going to buy drinks – again obscuring the view, pushing past my feet and often spilling their drinks on the way back. I don’t see the value in this experience at all.

Philippa Nitsche Philippa Nitsche 7:51 am 28 Apr 21

Owen Finegan great memories of the “glory days”

Paul Baynham Paul Baynham 7:44 am 28 Apr 21

Agree wholeheartedly with the article.

Noy only have the guys been winning consistently for years but they are also playing exciting rugby.

We've been the best team in Australia most years in recent history and have often been the only team with any hope of giving it to a Kiwi team (now the Reds look like the real deal as well).

An inclosed stadium would help sure but we didn't have one when we used to fill it in the early 2000s.

Get out there and support them.

    Wayne Russell Wayne Russell 8:50 am 28 Apr 21

    That's true, but in the early 2000s, most people didn't have a 4k 65" TV to sit back and watch the game on. It's a much better viewing experience in your lounge room these days. And then I don't have to sit on a plastic chair drinking $10/cup beer and line up for the toilet.

    It needs to be more attractive to attend. Having a stadium in Civic would help - plenty of places to go before and after to make more of a night out of it. Being out in Bruce is dreary.

    Paul Baynham Paul Baynham 8:54 am 28 Apr 21

    Wayne Russell I agree but all those things hold true for the Raiders as well who just got 20000 to a game so why can't the Brumbies

    Wayne Russell Wayne Russell 8:57 am 28 Apr 21

    Paul Baynham Cheaper tickets? Afternoon games? Not sure. Raiders seem to have done a bit with things like the Viking clap and getting fans more engaged. I think its one of those self-fulfilling things at some point too. More people go, the better the atmosphere, and the more likely you are to want to go and experience it.

    Jon Billows Jon Billows 9:05 am 28 Apr 21

    Wayne Russell Brumbies tickets are the cheapest in town...

    John Canevski John Canevski 9:30 pm 28 Apr 21

    If this sport still relevant in Australia?

Gillian Southwell Gillian Southwell 7:34 am 28 Apr 21

We need a closed in stadium here

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