The recent trend in attendances at NRL
matches ought to be worrying the game’s administrators as much as the massive
media coverage soccer is receiving thanks to the World Cup.

Last weekend 103,000 attended the seven
matches in round 15, certainly an improvement on the 70,000 who attended the
weekend before last.
But when you look at the attendances on a ground by
ground basis, even the latest figures are a worry.

The Broncos v Dragons game attracted just
under 33,000 spectators at Lang Park – close to half of them Dragons supporters! (The Dragons have
always had a strong following in Brisbane.) There was a second game in Queensland – the
Cowboys v Bulldogs match at Carrara on the Gold Coast (future home of the Titans) drew 16,200.

Close to half the total spectator numbers
in round 15 attended two games in Queensland.

Inexplicably, there was no Sunday afternoon
match in Sydney, with THREE games being played in Sydney on Saturday
night. The Tigers v Roosters game drew a respectable 19,300 but it was all
downhill after that.

Crowds in Auckland and Melbourne continue
to be atrocious – there is just no other way to put it. The Warriors v Knights
game in Auckland drew just over 6,000 fans, while the Storm v Raiders game in Melbourne had an
“official” attendance of 7,900.

The “official” figures don’t take into
account attendance fudging. The “Locker Room” column in the league’s official
magazine Big League suggested that
the crowd at the Rabbitohs v Broncos game “would have been lucky to be a third”
of the official attendance – 6,537 … at Telstra Stadium which holds 80,000!

While the 103,000 looked respectable it is
much less so when considering the attendances in round 15 last year – 106,000.
And the Broncos home game last year drew 8,000 less than last weekend’s game
did!

The NRL has rightly identified the AFL as a greater
challenge than soccer – because the AFL is about to be very cashed up, and plans to target juniors in New South Wales
and Queensland.
Identifying how to get fans through the gates? Well, it appears they are still
working on that.

Peter Fray

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