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Why patrons don’t go to the footie

By Roger Allnutt - 17 May 2017 13

Canberra Stadium

Back in the ‘good old days’ (showing my age here) we used to traipse out to Seiffert Oval on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon and line up near the try line to watch Mal Meninga steamroll over a defenceless defender to score another try.

Subsequently, when games moved to Bruce Stadium – in the heyday of the Raiders – we parked in Dryandra Street and a short stroll took us to the stadium. Easy access and easy getaway afterwards.

Nowadays everything to do with football seems to make it less amenable to actually attending a match.

Firstly for both rugby league and rugby union the advent of televising games, more money, corporate boxes etc has led to matches being played at different times like Friday or Saturday evening.  Given the cold of Canberra winter evenings, and reports of the shamble of parking at Bruce Stadium – or whatever name it is currently called – especially leaving the car parks through Hayden Drive and other exits, we just stopped going. Admittedly apart from a few seasons, both the Raiders and Brumbies haven’t been too flash and it is a well-recognised fact that Canberra supporters in the main are fair weather supporters.

Unless you are a diehard supporter it is not surprising that numbers dropped off. Any idea of taking children to these games is not attractive with matches often ending after 10 pm. The cost of entry, seating, and additional items like food and drink are another potential turn-off.

Changes to the organisation of, and trends within, the codes have also been a problem.

Until money raised its head there was a degree of loyalty of players to clubs. Then rugby league players recruited and ‘reared’ through the ranks of the Raiders suddenly started turning up in rival teams. Sometimes I would look at the team rosters and wonder which team was the Raiders, with so many familiar names turning out for the opposition. I don’t blame the players as they have a relatively short earning window and need to secure their future.

The more recent changes to rugby union make many supporters scratch their heads. With the expansion from 15 to 18 teams in Super Rugby (and now the foreshadowed reduction back again) has left a feeling of incomprehension as to how the powers that be could be so stupid.

The current format with four groups, where the Australian teams play the other Australian teams twice, most others once but some not at all, means you need a computer spreadsheet to work out where everything is going. Particularly odd is the current situation where the Brumbies, as the leading Australian outfit, have fewer points than the last placed NZ team, yet would still gain a finals berth.

I won’t get into the argument about the quality of refereeing (including video referees) but many matches in recent years appear to have been decided by who got the worst deal in crucial moments.

Australian Rules has had its own problems. For years many Canberra AFL followers had come to the city from southern states and had well-developed allegiance to specific teams. For some years the ACT Government threw copious sums of money as some different AFL teams in the hopes that (a) they would establish some sort of base here and (b) would attract a following. No chance – they just took the money and ran. Still some hopes GWS will fill the bill – but only three games a year!

A big concern is the view that Canberra doesn’t have a stadium appropriate to host professional team games. Manuka seems fine for cricket and Aussie Rules while the rectangular games could do with a new stadium. Providing adequate cover for spectators would be a major improvement.

Some ideas have been floated for a new stadium but all seem to be cursed with problems of setting and cost. Given the parlous state of ACT finances, we may have to wait some years.

Anyone got any good ideas for a new stadium?

What’s Your opinion?


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13 Responses to
Why patrons don’t go to the footie
1
Rollersk8r 12:24 pm
17 May 17
#

Yes you’ve nailed the various reasons there. Bruce is too cold, too hard to access and too expensive as a family outing.

Plus there was an era (or perhaps multiple eras) where players from the Cannons, Raiders and Brumbies were household names. I don’t see that these days, especially with the local product players the Raiders have been forced to sack – and the exodus of rugby players to overseas clubs, not to mention less interest generally in the Wallabies these days etc.

Regardless of the above – once I’ve paid for Fox there’s little chance I’d leave my nice warm lounge room, no matter how well the Raiders or Brumbies are playing.

Personally, I think Manuka’s a different kettle of fish. As committed members of the Giants we don’t miss a game. The Manuka facilities certainly aren’t perfect – but the matches are generally played in daylight and it’s an easy walk to get a drink or meal before or after.

I’m fully supportive of the city stadium idea though. Would be fantastic to finish work, grab a bite in Civic and walk down. Would bring so much more life into Civic before and after games.

2
Mess 12:33 pm
17 May 17
#

The Raiders have been attracting great crowds this year, up to 17,000 people per game. Although Canberran’s are fair weather supporters so we will have to see what the crowd is like at the next home game after our worrying form slump.

3
dungfungus 12:55 pm
17 May 17
#

With free to air live HD TV now showing at least 3 NRL matches a week the appeal of attending a match and paying to watch “men at work” has become much less.

I have no interest in the AFL which appears to survive only because of “pump-priming” be the local governments. Manuka Oval (or whatever it is called now) has become a boutique facility in the coolest capital. Knowing that we pay a Sydney football team over $700Kvery time they play there makes my blood boil.

I have lost interest in anything the ARU is involved in because of the delays and penalty decisions have ruined the game.

Soccer has even less support/appeal the the aforementioned codes.

Just as there is no business case for a newer, enlarged convention centre in Canberra there is no business case for a new, enlarged stadium. I am tiring of reading about the drug taking in all the codes. too.

4
pink little birdie 10:45 pm
17 May 17
#

You missed the Rugby League and Rugby Union both have very little play outside of where the ball is and have a narrow play area around the ball which makes them better for TV.

5
watto23 9:07 am
18 May 17
#

We definitely need a new stadium and I can see no reason why it shouldn’t be in the city. Even if it means and extra 20-30 times a year you get extra people flowing through the city and increase patronage to places to eat and drink its a far more positive outcome, than having everyone drive to Bruce and then departing again in our insular Canberra lives.

Of course it will cost money and unlike Townsville, the ACT electorates are not marginal so no federal government money is going to get spent here…… Best hope is to vote a non Labor/Liberal senator in and that might get us some attention.

6
Me2 11:22 am
18 May 17
#

dungfungus said :

With free to air live HD TV now showing at least 3 NRL matches a week the appeal of attending a match and paying to watch “men at work” has become much less.

I have no interest in the AFL which appears to survive only because of “pump-priming” be the local governments. Manuka Oval (or whatever it is called now) has become a boutique facility in the coolest capital. Knowing that we pay a Sydney football team over $700Kvery time they play there makes my blood boil.

I have lost interest in anything the ARU is involved in because of the delays and penalty decisions have ruined the game.

Soccer has even less support/appeal the the aforementioned codes.

Just as there is no business case for a newer, enlarged convention centre in Canberra there is no business case for a new, enlarged stadium. I am tiring of reading about the drug taking in all the codes. too.

Those free to air NRL matches rarely feature the Raiders though, so if you support the local team it’s either watch on Foxtel or get out to the game. Personally I prefer the atmosphere of watching the game live, the addition of the Viking clap recently has been great (although it only works because the Raiders have had decent crowd numbers).

I agree that we are paying way too much for GWS to play at Manuka, but I think their last few games have been sellouts so there’s obviously some level of interest there

I used to be a regular at Brumbies games but even in their most successful seasons a couple of years ago, found it games were increasingly boring. My theory is that with the introduction of professionalism, teams have had more time and resources to focus on defence and slowing the game down at all costs (even if it means copping a penalty or yellow card) has become the norm.

Re the OP reference to the current conference system in Super Rugby. I don’t understand why people seem to struggle with how it works. These kind of systems have been used in the big American sports leagues for decades. If the Americans can grasp the concept, why do we in Australia find it so difficult?

I think the success of Canberra United in the significantly lower profile W League shows that there is indeed quite a lot of support for the code in Canberra. It is the most popular grass roots sport after all.

I think you’re on the right track by mentioning a new Convention Centre – they should be the same venue! There are numerous examples of combined stadium/convention centre’s around the world and this seems to me to be the logical solution for Canberra. The stadium design that Mr Barr seemed keen on replicating for the new Canberra stadium was the one in Dunedin which is also used for conventions and related activities. A combined venue would be used far more regularly throughout the year and thus be more economically viable. Just need some good creative design/planning to maximise its useability

7
bj_ACT 12:17 pm
18 May 17
#

I agree a new covered Rectangular Stadium in Civic would be great for the city and sports fans. I also agree that the $23 Million dollars of ACT taxpayer money that Andrew Barr gave GWS and AFL for 3 comp games a year was an outrageous gift to his favourite sport.

8
1967 1:13 pm
18 May 17
#

Remember the days when there’d be some loveable larakin with a trumpet or a drum somewhere in the crowd?
Some smart arse, but humerous, remarks about the players or referees, made just loud enough to be audible to all those around?
A wag at the front of the bay leading a rousing sing-a-long, or starting a wave?
Kids kicking a footy or having a bat on a open section of grass?

Now we’ve got ground announcers and “Sych-out” music and fire-bloody-works every time a wicket falls or a try is scored.
You can’t talk to the person beside you for all the noise.

And don’t get me started on “Half-time entertainment”.
When did that become nesessary.
Sure, put the under 10’s on for a run-around, that’s good for the kids, their families and the grassroots sport in the community, as well as being actually entertaining.
Not 4 geese selected from the crowd to run about in mascot suits making a fool of themselves to win a pizza. And especially not with an announcer giving a full volume, blow by blow call of the sad, sorry affair.

I won’t be seen at Bruce stadium this year.
Canterbury Bankstown aren’t scheduled to play.

9
TheAxeMan 5:13 pm
19 May 17
#

It’s 3-fold
1) I think any code other than Australian Football doesn’t lend itself to a great crowd experience. It’s much better for a supporter to watch from home any game of Rugby (both it’s variants) or soccer and get a feel for the game. You can’t so that with Australian Football.
2) There is no pattern of encouraging increasing attendances at games of rugby. They have always focused the attention on their clubs rather than match day attendance.
3) Bruce Stadium. I’ll be honest here, it’s a hole. It’s in a terrible spot and detracts from the match day experience

10
thomasD 10:56 am
20 May 17
#

Seems to be a theme wider theme in Aus. I always find it funny when people say Aussies are a sport loving nation. I don’t think we compare to the die hard soccer fans across Europe and Sth America, or even the small town highschool football fans in the US. Those communities live and breathe it.

I think we have too many pro sports if anything, spreading ourselves too thin. And in a growing connected world, most of our sports don’t really rank well entertainment wise internationally if we’re being honest, and most of our athletes don’t either. I don’t see good prospects for most Aus pro leagues growing well into the future, personally.

11
JC 11:26 pm
20 May 17
#

TheAxeMan said :

It’s 3-fold
1) I think any code other than Australian Football doesn’t lend itself to a great crowd experience. It’s much better for a supporter to watch from home any game of Rugby (both it’s variants) or soccer and get a feel for the game. You can’t so that with Australian Football.
2) There is no pattern of encouraging increasing attendances at games of rugby. They have always focused the attention on their clubs rather than match day attendance.
3) Bruce Stadium. I’ll be honest here, it’s a hole. It’s in a terrible spot and detracts from the match day experience

True that AFl is a game that leads itself more to being there rather than on TV. Most of the ‘play’ is off the ball in the positioning which cannot be seen not appreciated in TV.

As for the rectangular field games, my view is TV is the main reason for falling crowds. That did clubs don’t miss out becuse more people watching on TV means more money in the rights and more money for the clubs.

And yeah Bruce Stadium is rather poor. Not a surprise considering it was designed as a athletics stadium and later converted. Location wise not as bad as many make out, yeah closer to the city would be better, but a compromise would be to keep it where it is, bulldoze one side at a time and rebuild the stands in a manner that better suits a rectangular field rather than running track. IMO ANz in Sydney has similar issue I personally don’t like it as a venue to watch fotty in person.

12
Holden Caulfield 9:28 am
23 May 17
#

First of all, it’s footy with a y.

Second of all, the level of support GWS is attracting in Canberra is something you should pay more attention to.

And, then there’s the elephant in the room, that, generally, rugby league fans don’t go to games full stop. No matter where they’re being played.

Why build a new stadium for codes that don’t attract consistent crowds?

To be fair, a stadium in the city would increase crowd numbers you would hope (eg. refer to the Adelaide Oval redevelopment). Either way, there would need to be some realistic alternate sources of revenue for a new stadium, other than sport, to ensure it had anything close to a profitable existence.

13
dungfungus 11:11 am
23 May 17
#

Holden Caulfield said :

First of all, it’s footy with a y.

Second of all, the level of support GWS is attracting in Canberra is something you should pay more attention to.

And, then there’s the elephant in the room, that, generally, rugby league fans don’t go to games full stop. No matter where they’re being played.

Why build a new stadium for codes that don’t attract consistent crowds?

To be fair, a stadium in the city would increase crowd numbers you would hope (eg. refer to the Adelaide Oval redevelopment). Either way, there would need to be some realistic alternate sources of revenue for a new stadium, other than sport, to ensure it had anything close to a profitable existence.

Glad you mentioned revenue and profit because I would like to know who gets the gate proceeds at Manuka Oval (or whatever it is called now) when GWS play there and the ACT government (us) shell out over $700k.

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