An answer to Sydney NRL crowd problems?
120 Have your say
Last week, we discussed where best to hold the bigger games in Sydney, with my proposal of basing big games at two main stadiums, one based in the CBD and the other the west at Parramatta.
There were a lot of good points raised by readers, which I hope the NRL commission can consider.
I started thinking, if the stadium location and size, transport and fringe entertainment was resolved, what type of games would Sydneysiders leave the couch for? To answer this, I have crunched the numbers of the 2011 NRL regular season crowd statistics, and have discovered some interesting findings.
The 2011 NRL regular season as a whole averaged 16,273, of this the nine Sydney based teams averaged just below at 15,101 at their home games, which is well below the seven non-Sydney teams which pull 18,138 at their home games. Brisbane and Newcastle are the stand-outs.
Lesson one – non-Sydney teams are pulling above their weight and proving that Sydney crowds are fickle.
However, not all games in Sydney are pulling 15,000, so what do Sydneysiders want to see? Understanding the Sydney numbers further, Sydney derby games averaged a more respectable 17,412, where Sydney games featuring a visiting non-Sydney club are an incredibly low 11,876. Lesson two – Sydneysiders want to so Sydney derby games.
So how can the NRL commission use this particular Sydney trait to their advantage? Let’s take it as given that the NRL will bring in two new teams in the next three or four years, it’s also safe to say these two teams will not be based out of Sydney. This will make an 18 team comp, with nine Sydney based teams and nine non-Sydney based teams.
I propose that the NRL schedule each Sydney team to play the other eight Sydney teams twice a season, making 16 rounds, with the non-Sydney teams also playing each other twice. The Sydney teams would also have to travel to play all the nine non-Sydney teams once, making 25 rounds.
This provides a total of 64 derby matches in Sydney – a plus for the fickle Sydney crowd, and also means each non-Sydney team host all 17 other teams at home – a plus for an NRL outpost team, as say Perth.
To allow the non-Sydney teams a chance to play in Sydney before the finals, I propose that a special round is held on the June long weekend, where all teams play at ANZ with three triple headers across Saturday, Sunday and Monday. This special mid-season round makes an even 26 round competition.
Instead of random scheduling as provided by the NRL now, with some teams playing each other three times and other teams once, games scheduling would be even and targeted at big crowds. Sydney derby games would be spread across the season, with an average three Sydney games a week.
This allows the two big Sydney derby games to be hosted at the future east and west stadiums and the third game to be hosted at a suburban ground. To test this, I reviewed the Sydney derby crowds at ANZ which averaged 22,191 and the Sydney Football Stadium/SCG which averaged 23,742. These averages are bigger than capacity at most suburban grounds and, with regular scheduling, derby games have the opportunity to attract greater support over time.
Also, for those who are interested, it seems not only do Manly fans not cross the Spit Bridge, they also do not get to ‘fortress Brookie’ too often either. Manly’s average home ground crowd in a premiership winning year was 13,753 – less than Melbourne Storm and only slightly better than Cronulla and Penrith.