Imagine a 20k average NRL season

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    In 2012 the NRL released a strategic plan that sim to average 20,000 per game in 2017. Five years on, the average is 15,010 – which is slightly less that the 2012 regular season average of 15,940.

    So what did the NRL do over the last five years to impact on crowds?

    On the plus side, its secured significant investment in three stadiums in Sydney and one in Townsville. However this won’t see an impact on crowds for years to come and especially without a coordinated game strategy for Sydney.

    On the negative side, it signed a TV deal that prioritised TV ratings over crowd numbers, not realising that the creation of or lack of game atmosphere significantly impact TV ratings.

    So where to from here? The NRL needs to get serious about crowds. Firstly, move State of Origin in to three stand alone weekends, it is just a must.

    Secondly the NRL should sit down with each club and develop a tailored five-year crowd strategy that aims to get each club up to 20,000 average by 2022. The draw needs to be based from these club priorities and the NRL fund an comprehensive marketing campaign.

    Those who are below the threshold by 2022 or beyond will need to relocate or forfeit their licence.

    Those who are above the 20k threshold will receive extra funding based on their figures.

    So what are the options that clubs can look at to increase their numbers?

    1. Create events and derbies
    Base the yearly calendar around crowd-pulling events and local derbies. Ideally based around public holidays at crowd friendly times, these games should be on the same date every year. The Anzac Day game is the best example, but there could be many many more.

    2. Take the first two rounds on the road
    Start the season overseas, with double headers staged in eight cities over two live rounds. Preseason camps can be used to help grow the game overseas. Host cities could include London, Manchester, Paris, Barcelona, Toronto, Chicago, Honolulu, San Fransisco.

    2. Reciprocal memberships and game seating
    Make it free for any member of the opposition club to come in. Welcome them in, put them in their own section and encourage them to make an awesome atmosphere. Squeeze everyone into one section, slowly releasing sections with demand.

    Ensure the to cameras are on the opposite side to capture the crowd and atmosphere. The Titans have been great at this of late.

    3. Awesome game day experience
    Make the whole day a great experience for families, young groups, non-leagueies, everyone. The Toronto Wolfpack are leading the way in this, with a craft beer and food truck section at the try line that parties well after game time.

    Throw in a hot dog gun at half time, and there’s a reason why there averaging 7k per game in a city that doesn’t know what rugby league is. AFL do kids day everyone Sunday where kids get in free, with heaps of kids activities.

    4. Adopt a second city
    Adopt a large city without a league team and make them your second home. Bring all your traditionally lowest drawing games. The key here is to make this an authentic adoption, to make sure the sister city buy into it.

    The number of games moved to the second home, will depend on the crowd generated at home. Roosters are now exploring this approach with Central Coast and Adelaide, both drawing above 20k.

    5. Double headers
    Host double headers that will draw 50k. The best example of this is Storm and Manly taking their home games up to Brisbane for there double header. As well as Brisbane – Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth would all be suitable for this approach.

    6. Special ‘local’ experience
    Go back to the suburban ground or the nearby regional town to have an authentic heritage or grassroots experience. Make it an old boys day, wear heritage Jerseys and put a band on at the end of it. Key is to keep this limited to one or two a year to keep its special. Bulldogs back to Belford games are the best example of this, as are the panthers in Bathurst.

    7. Relocation
    Lastly, if the above fails. The club and NRL need to look at relocation. If the support isn’t there, it’s time to find a bigger base to build from. Relocation doesn’t need to be abrupt, it can always include a number of ‘home’ games at the old base.

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