Why are GWS’ crowds so underwhelming?
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Andrew Phillips and Jeremy Cameron of the Giants in front of a disappointing crowd (AFL Media)
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Yes, I know this is yet another fluff piece on the GWS Giants. And yes, I know I’m a critic of people looking to write such pieces just for fun and, for a lack of a better phrase, to piss people off.
Hypocrisy, thy name is me. Right?
Well sure, I have at times been guilty of commentating on topics such as crowd numbers between the AFL and NRL which has been somewhat cheeky, however I like to think of such topics as thought-provoking.
And that’s what I’m trying to do here.
See, I’m faced with a conundrum.
GWS are playing spirited football. On field, they play a real team orientated brand of football, they are absolutely inundated with talent and it’s bloody scary to think how dominant they will be in four or five years’ time.
Off field, they’ve done a lot of things correctly: They’ve engaged with the community, set up a nice little nest at Breakfast Point which helps the team gel incredibly well and they’ll be financially stable for the foreseeable future, at which point they’ll most likely be a well-run team both on and off the field.
But at the moment, the crowd numbers are significantly underwhelming, and must be of a growing concern among league administrators at AFL House.
You’ve most likely heard certain phrases bandied around in an attempt to put on a façade that will convince people that everything is alright: “It’s a long term plan”, “We don’t expect to see results straight away”, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, you get the drift.
But when eleven-odd thousand rock up to your first game at your new home ground and the second game has four thousand less than the previous, you have to start looking at the reasons behind these shortcomings.
Well, the Richmond game that drew seven thousand was played in pouring rain, which doesn’t help bring people to the game. As I’ve stated in another article, the problem could lie with an identity crisis of sorts, with the Giants failing to wholly commit to a specific area and playing home games at several venues. And one can’t deny the fact that Australian Football isn’t a major sport in Sydney’s west.
Those reasons alone could be the answer to the question.
However, I believe the problem lies deeper. Not just with Australian Football or the area it’s played in, not the weather, not even the identity crisis.
Sydney, in my opinion is a city that; teamed up with its citizens’ love of watching games on TV and the fact it’s so spread out geographically, means that overall, it’s generally poor at attending sports events.
The NRL has attendances averaging in between 10-20,000 for twelve teams. Rugby union has the Waratahs, who represent the whole of New South Wales, yet they only average 20,000. The A-League has Sydney FC, a team that represents an entire city and state, yet only averages 12,000 per match, even though association football is among the most popular codes in Sydney. And the AFL still averages around 15,000 between the two Sydney teams.
It doesn’t say that the AFL is more popular than football, and it doesn’t say that league is weak.
It simply means that Sydneysiders enjoy their living rooms more than travelling to Parramatta Stadium and forking out a lot of money for the associated costs that come along with sporting events.
I love going to Crows games, eating a Vili’s Pie and drinking a Farmers Union Iced Coffee. But then again, that’s the culture.
Many Croweaters, Sandgropers and Victorians have grown up going to the footy in rain, hail or shine to support their team.
The fact that Sydneysiders choose their couch over a bucket-seat at ANZ Stadium is a simple way to figure out why things are the way they are in Sydney.
It doesn’t mean they’re lazy or don’t support their club as much as Melbournians support their favourite AFL team.
People from Sydney love their league, and by looking at the television figures, their tradition of sitting in front of the TV with the kids and having a quiet beer and a packet of chips is just as important to them as a day at Football Park with a barbecue set up behind a Land Rover is to a Croweater.
So there it is, Roarers. What do you think? Is GWS in for decades of lacklustre crowds? Have I hit the nail on the head in regards the different cultures that divide Melbournians and Sydneysiders in the way they support their team or sport of choice?
Or is it just another fluff piece? I bloody hope not.