Crowd comparison averages for 2002 and 2012
The 2012 NRL season has been and gone with the Melbourne Storm the premiers for this year.
The 2012 season has been productive on the crowd front for the NRL, having the second highest aggregate for a season on record with 3,486,494.
The crowd average was 17,346. This is just a fraction lower than the 2010 season where the crowd aggregate was 3,490,778 at an average of 17,367.
This year marked the end of David Gallop’s reign of CEO of the NRL. Gallop commenced his role as top dog in 2002.
So with crowd averages in mind, I figured I should do a comparison starting from Gallop’s first year in 2002 until his last year in 2012.
Let’s evaluate any differences, or any facts that occurrred during the ten year period. Also let’s analyse the home and away part of the seasons, excluding finals.
In season 2012, Brisbane lead the way with 33,377, not bad considering they play a majority of their home matches on Friday night. Also Suncorp is a better ground than the old QEII stadium where in their last season they averaged just over 20,000 in 2002.
Canterbury have performed well with 23,572, an excellent average for the minor premiers and runners up.
Todd Greenberg and the Bulldogs have certainly embraced playing their home maches at ANZ stadium. While it is no surprise the Bulldogs average was very healthy this year, last year the Bulldogs came ninth and averaged 19,528.
In season 2002 they only averaged 14,160. What’s interesting is that in that season the Bulldogs were performing well on the field, coming first until they were busted for salary cap rorting. That occurred after 23 rounds, very late in the season, which meant the last three rounds they played for nothing.
If you put aside the salary cap scandal, Canterbury were coming first and only managed an average crowd of just of 14,000. Yet this year, in a similar position (except for a salary cap drama) they got over 23,000.
Huge credit must go to Todd Greenberg and the management at Canterbury for turning around the club after dramas involving salary cap and Coffs Harbour. I’m sure Canterbury will do well again next year crowd. Hopefully James Graham’s actions don’t take a bite out of their crowd numbers.
Who’s to say Canterbury can’t average beyond 30,000 before this decade is out?
Newcastle continue to be a mad rugby league town with numbers close to 21,000, while the Parramatta Eels, who came last this year averaged 16,803.
Canberra Raiders came last with crowd averages of 10,190; just 158 worse off than in 2002. That’s despite the fact that Canberra came sixth and were knocked out in week two of the finals. Also Canberra had the most lowest sub 10,000 crowds with six, followed by Penrith with five and Cronulla, another top eight team, with four
There has been talk that Canberra could get an indoor stadium to offset the cold in the winter months. The other consideration for a new stadium is that Canberra Stadium is ageing and that its facilities will last until the end of this decade.
With Brisbane averaging 33,000, they obviously lead the way with crowds above 20,000. The Broncos had every home game (12) over 20,000. They were followed by Canterbury with seven, while Newcastle had six home games over 20,000.
Certainly the comparisons between 2002 and 2012 in regards to crowds below 10,000 and crowds above 20,000 is quite telling. In 2002, 60 matches out of 180 had matches less than 10,000. That is a third (33%) of the games that season. Fast forward ten years, that figure has dropped to 23 matches out of 192 with crowds below 10,000, which amounts to 12%.
As for crowds over 20,000, in 2002, 19 matches achieved this out of 180 matches, which is 10.5%. In 2012, 43 matches out of 192 mathces had over 20,000, at 22%, nearly a quarter of the season’s games.
The turnaround of these figures could be for a number of reasons. Clubs in recent times have been partaking in memberships drives. Memberships numbers in the NRL now exceed 200,000. Also new stadia, and upgrades in venues like Suncorp, Skilled park, AAMI Park and Hunter Stadium have helped the game day experience.
There is still a long way to go with other venues in the NRL like Brookvale and Leichhardt Oval to determine whether they have a future or not.
Monday night football was reintroduced in 2007, the same time the Gold Coast Titans came into the comp. This year in Monday matches the crowd average was 13,377, just 3000 less than the home and away average. Also, there were only three matches that had less than 10,000 people attend. In 2007 the average crowd on Monday nights was 15,686. You could say it was first year novelty.
I think, overall, the game is slowly getting rid of the dark times of the mid to late nineties which was Super League.
When Gallop started in 2002 South Sydney came back in after not competing in 2000 and 2001, after being kicked out for not meeting the NRL’s criteria after compromise occurred in 1997. The Northern Eagles, a failed joint venture between Manly and North Sydney entered its third and final year before Manly took ownership and reverted back in 2003.
So in some ways, 2002 represented a year in which the effects of Super League died off on the field as old clubs like Souths and Manly started to come back. 2012 featured the Independent Commission coming in, making the game independent from News Ltd, and the recent TV deal which included getting rid of the first and last rights to Nine (2017) and News Ltd (2027).
Another thing that has occurred is an increase in marquee events around club matches. In 2002, the St. George-Illawarra Dragons and the Sydney Roosterss commenced their ANZAC day match tradition. In the first year the crowd was 20,588. This year the crowd was 40,164. It’s gone from been an ordinary, run-of-the-mill game that was played on ANZAC Day to a major event.
In the last few years Melbourne Storm and the Warriors have played a match on ANZAC Day. This started in 2009 with 15,200 turning up at Olympic Park to watch a drawn golden point game. This year the crowd on ANZAC Day between these two teams was 20,333 at AAMI to see the Storm truimph.
Now the season opener of the NRL will become a major event with it being staged on a Thursday night.
While the NRL crowd averages are below what the AFL gets, there are trends to suggest that the NRL’s crowds will continue to go north, not south.