Wests Tigers lock out opposition and casual fans

mds1970 Roar Guru

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    Professional sporting clubs in Australia have placed much emphasis in recent years on turning fans into members. It’s not hard to see why. The money from memberships goes directly to the club, rather than to the league, ticket agencies or other parties.

    Attendance that is already paid for is locked in; and if it’s cold or wet or the team isn’t doing well, you’re more likely to make the effort to go to the game if you’ve already paid.

    There are other benefits to clubs as well. You have a database to sell to sponsors, and are able to invite them individually to club functions.

    AFL clubs have long built up strong membership bases. The 16 longer-running clubs all have memberships over 20,000. Gold Coast have over 10,000 as they enter their second season, while new club GWS Giants are building their membership with their first game just a month away.

    NRL clubs were slower to get on board the membership drive bandwagon; but have made big gains in recent seasons. Brisbane, St George Illawarra, the Bulldogs and Souths have over 10,000 members; while other clubs are getting close.

    But it’s a new tactic to attract members by Wests Tigers that is attracting attention this week, and could backfire on the club.

    The new NRL season starts in the first weekend in March. Wests Tigers are drawn to play Cronulla at Leichhardt Oval on the Sunday afternoon in the opening round.

    Leichhardt is a small suburban ground, with one small grandstand on the western side and a standing room hill on the eastern side. It’s an old style venue, the type of ground the AFL abandoned during ground rationalisation in the 1980s and 1990s.

    A couple of Wests Tigers member friends asked me if I was interested in going to the opening round game. With the AFL not starting until a few weeks later, I was keen. A couple of Cronulla-supporting mates were keen to come as well.

    Tickets were due to go on sale on Monday, but were pulled from sale at the last minute. A phone call to the Wests Tigers club revealed the game had been declared for Tigers members only. A one-game membership was available for $65.

    The Cronulla mates were told the same thing. No Wests Tigers membership, no entry to this game.

    The plan to make Leichardt Oval games for members only was confirmed by Tigers boss Stephen Humphreys in The Sydney Morning Herald (link -http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/tigers-set-to-shut-doors-to-general-public-for-future-leichhardt-fixtures-20120220-1tjre.html).

    Cronulla fans “can watch it on Channel Nine or Fox Sports”. Let them eat cake.

    No $65 membership, no entry to stand on muddy grass for a home-and-away game. It’s a bit rich. For away fans, no entry without becoming a member of a club they don’t support. It’s a bit rich.

    I can’t help thinking this is going to backfire rather spectacularly on the Tigers.

    We live in competitive sporting times. There are other clubs, and other sports, that will admit to vastly superior facilities for a lot less than $65 and having your name on a membership database.

    Leichhardt only holds 18,000; and I can understand why they would be worried about a sellout. But both ANZ and the Sydney Football Stadium are vacant that day. Why not move the game? Can an NRL club afford to turn people away?

    And to send the message out that the Wests Tigers don’t want casual fans or away supporters at their games is a dangerous message indeed. It’s membership or nothing. That’s the message they’re sending.

    But what’s going to happen when the current membership base churns? Who will take their place?

    Not casual fans. They’ve been turned away, told they’re not welcome.

    And to exclude away fans, unless they buy a $65 membership to a club they don’t support, is very poor form indeed.

    Encouraging membership is a good thing. But to force it, to exclude anyone not willing or able to commit to the club from even casual attendance, is surely beyond the bounds of what is reasonable.

    It sends the wrong message to potential supporters, driving all but the most committed away.

    I’m not going. Neither are the Sharks’ fans. We know when we’re not welcome.

    Just don’t bother inviting me to a Wests Tigers game again.

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    The Crowd Says (61)

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:58am
      purple_shag said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:58am | ! Report

      Not only are they locking out their fans, they’re the hardest team to pick in the NRL. See more below. Happy Punting.
      http://therestijustsquandered.com/2012/02/21/nrl-season-2012-gambling-manifesto/

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 7:46am
      Danny Pinsuti said | February 22nd 2012 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      $65 for one game? As you say, Mikey, that is a bit rich! I think the Wests Tigers are acting a fair bit upmarket of where they actually are. It is’nt a very good advertisement for the NRL.

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 10:24pm
        Queensland's game is rugby league said | February 22nd 2012 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

        The Broncos charge $70 or more for a seat in the Western and Eastern stands at Lang Park.

        Can you people in Sydney now see why they only average 33,000?

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 8:28am
      chrisc101 said | February 22nd 2012 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      Seems you have missed the point entirely. This is one of the smartest things Humphreys has done (and I have by no means been a supporter of him in the past).

      If members do not sellout the game, then you and your Sharkies mates will be able to buy tickets and go. And in this case, this is what will happen. However is a few years, Leichhardt will become the first ground to be sold out by memebers. It is smart because it will very quickly lift membership numbers for the club from 10,000 to 20,000.

      The only drawback I see is no allowcation for away supporters which is wrong. But I am sure they will address this.

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 8:59am
        Will Sinclair said | February 22nd 2012 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        You’re right mate.

        The Tigers are both a) making Tigers memberships more attractive and b) marking a Tigers game at Leichhardt Oval as a marquee event, with limited tickets.

        It’s building hype around the game, and building publicity.

        Very smart stuff.

        • Roar Guru

          February 23rd 2012 @ 1:03am
          Dan Wighton said | February 23rd 2012 @ 1:03am | ! Report

          Agree 100% – Leichardt games are already pretty sought after.

          Turning this into membership (which is likely to see people remain as members) is clever.

          The Sharks may complain that they wont be able to attend, but any club is free to do this. Its a credit to the Tigers that they have built the popularity of the Leichardt fixtures to such an extent that they will be members only.

          The move also reinforces their home ground advantage and increases their chances of winning…

          • February 28th 2012 @ 3:37pm
            Jaredsbro said | February 28th 2012 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

            But there’s the small matter (really small actually) of what happens if there isn’t a sell-out or not even close. As someone above said that’s not right and it may backfire 😉

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 8:57am
      Will Sinclair said | February 22nd 2012 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      SMH is reporting 9,000 tickets to go on sale to the general public, including Sharks fans:

      http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/no-room-at-the-stadiums-clubs-struggle-to-seat-opposing-views-20120221-1tluh.html

      Do the Sharks even HAVE 9,000 fans?

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 9:37am
        Renegade said | February 22nd 2012 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        Do the tigers even HAVE 18’000 members???

        The crowd will be like 10’000 if they lock out everyone else.

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 9:53am
          Marshall Magic said | February 22nd 2012 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          In a few seasons every club will have more then 10,000 I believe the tigers are about to crack that mark and should have around 11 or 12,000 for this season…..

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 10:04am
        Charlton said | February 22nd 2012 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Thank you Will…I was thinking the exact same thing.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2012 @ 10:38am
        mds1970 said | February 22nd 2012 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        Now it gets truly bizarre.
        They pull tickets from the original on-sale date, push $65 single game memberships as the only way to get in, talk in the media that non-members and opposition fans won’t get in. And then it turns out that even after plenty of people had panic-bought the $65 membership (and wouldn’t you feel like a ripped off mug if you had), that they’ve sold enough memberships to fill half the ground.

        It seems a bit strange to turn potential fans away and make noises about excluding people unless there’s a genuine risk that the ground could be filled entirely by home club members. In the mean time, some have made other plans, some have paid an excessive $65 to attend the game, and the message has got out that Wests Tigers don’t accept casuals and away fans to their games – which could potentially affect ticket sales for future games as well as this one.

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 10:40am
          Will Sinclair said | February 22nd 2012 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          I paid $60 for a membership with NO tickets, so I reckon those members who are getting a ticket to the Sharks game are miles ahead of me!

          I don’t feel like a mug though – happy to support the club.

          (I also signed up my two kids – the in-laws are trying to turn them into Parramatta Eels fans, and I really think that allowing your kids to support Parra is a form of child abuse.)

          • February 22nd 2012 @ 2:23pm
            Nathan of Perth said | February 22nd 2012 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

            “(I also signed up my two kids – the in-laws are trying to turn them into Parramatta Eels fans, and I really think that allowing your kids to support Parra is a form of child abuse.)”

            Love it

            • February 22nd 2012 @ 9:02pm
              Tom said | February 22nd 2012 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

              No child abuse is when your in laws are AFL fans and trying to get them to be swans supporters rather then rugby league

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 9:36am
      Matt F said | February 22nd 2012 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      It should be pointed out that the $65 isn’t just the ticket. It also covers a bunch of the usual membership merchandise and i think it even gives a discount for generalt Tigers merchandise so for a Tigers fan it would have some value. That and Will has pointed out the remaining tickets are also open to Sharks members now as well.

      In the future the NRL doesn need to look at introducing ticket allocations for away supporters.

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 9:49am
      Marshall Magic said | February 22nd 2012 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      As a tigers supporter I am very pleased to hear this news. It will make more people get off their backsides and buy memberships further increasing the clubs profits. Seeing 20,000 tigers supporters at Leichhardt and even Campbelltown is so intimidating for opposition teams and it makes an electric atmosphere for the game. Does anyone know how many tigers members there are now?

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2012 @ 12:01pm
        mds1970 said | February 22nd 2012 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

        Leichhardt holds 18,000. If they’re putting 9,000 public tickets on sale; that suggests that, including the people who panic-bought the $65 single game membership, they have about 9,000 ticketed members. Maybe about 1,000 non-ticketed members would mean a total membership around the 10,000 mark.

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 12:57pm
          Marshall Magic said | February 22nd 2012 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

          Last year there were 20,000 for the tigers and storm game, I have never heard of a sellout crowd of 18,000 at Leichhardt? Well i guess that goes to show that people will go through all means to watch their beloved team, I still think it is a great initiative, I do believe the membership comes with the whole membership package though including hat, bag etc etc and all the great membership benefits, and as someone else pointed out on here I believe it may include a 3 game package…

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