A better stadium won’t put bums on seats for the Brumbies

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By Broadmeadow, Broadmeadow is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    What a parlous state Australian rugby is in. The standout for another appalling season was the once-mighty Reds being thrashed 63-28 by… the Crusaders? Lions? No, the Sunwolves.

    So what is the solution to this parlous situation?

    Well, happily, Joe Roff – the former champion Wallaby and current CEO of this year’s next worst Australian team, the Brumbies – provided the answers this season.

    “We need a new stadium,” was Joe’s solution to the pathetic state of Australian rugby.

    Nothing do to with substandard players, it is the shocking state of the concrete mausoleums.

    I grant you, as any regular paying guest of Canberra Stadium can vouch, the majority of the seats are not within the warm confines of a heated executive suite offering free grog, freshly cooked, edible food, and tasty desserts. But for watching footy, there’s really nothing wrong with the stadium itself.

    The best place in Australia to watch footy – Leichhardt Oval in Sydney – is quite possibly the most antiquated elite sports facility in the world. It still has wooden benches and a grass hill. The subterranean toilet block fills up to the knees every time it rains. The ground is hard to get to and has bugger all parking if you drive. But it gets filled every time the Wests Tigers play there.

    Leichhardt Oval

    The Leichhardt Oval scoreboard (Hpeterswald via Wikimedia Commons)

    So it’s not the stadium that matters. It could be the overbearing security and safety fetish that all Australian sports seem to have. It could be the inability to buy a decent beer, and having a stone-faced cashier tell you that your $20 note isn’t good enough to buy four watery tins of slightly-alcoholic brown soda water.

    It could be the confronting spectacle of paying $7.50 for a pie, nuclear-treated so as to provide a hardwood-like base, rendering the contents hot enough to strip the lining from your tongue, plus 50 cents for a dollop of sauce to kill the taste. Or even worse, being told there aren’t any left just before kick-off, while over the loudspeaker comes an announcement exhorting the crowd to give thanks to today’s sponsors, the pie company.

    It isn’t the stadium that’s putting people off going to the footy, Joe. But looking at the crowd figures this year, Joe may just, ever-so-slightly, be talking through his kick. Because the crowd for the Brumbies games was often 5000 people. And the graph of attendance numbers over the past few years is looking rather similar to the graph of the number of jobs in manufacturing in Australia. Or funding for science.

    So Joe’s formula for improving rugby crowds, and rugby in general, is to build a new stadium. Perhaps the money could come out of the (former) science budget, because it certainly won’t be coming from rugby gate receipts.

    But there is something you can do, Joe, to get people back to the footy: have a good think about how you treat those in attendance.

    One of the best stadiums in the world to watch footy is Rugby Park in Invercargill. There, you can stand up along a whole side of the stadium if you wish, or sit on a grass hill, you can drink as much full-strength beer as you like, the pies are warm and you don’t lose the skin on your tongue. Mr Whippy sits in one corner, and while you wait with hundreds of others in line for an ice-cream, you can still watch the footy.

    The program is available in exchange for an optional gold coin, and if there are ‘security guards’, nobody notices them.

    It is fun, the ground is full for every major game, the kids enjoy running around madly on the grassy hill, jostling for position on kicks at goal, treading on pies and kicking over beers as they go, and the ground announcer limits his remarks to announcing facts.

    Yet everyone, a cross-section of New Zealand society, enjoys the experience. Compare that with how we’re treated at Canberra Stadium and other grounds in Australia.

    Fix that, and you might start getting more than 5000 people to a do-or-die Brumbies match. No matter where it is.

    Rebuild announcement

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    The Crowd Says (53)

    • July 20th 2018 @ 3:38am
      Malo said | July 20th 2018 @ 3:38am | ! Report

      Agree wholeheartedly, the experience is terrible especially with the intense security , making you feel like your a long Bay detainee. You are treated like shi!e when you go to the rugby. But like Twas and Brett says the ra don’t care about supporters coming to the games, it is irrelevant. Until sr dies.

      • Columnist

        July 20th 2018 @ 10:57am
        Brett McKay said | July 20th 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        Yep, that’s what we say. Word for word. Most accurate thing you’ve ever said, Jock.

    • July 20th 2018 @ 3:43am
      Riddler said | July 20th 2018 @ 3:43am | ! Report

      Is this serious?

      A new stadium.. ???

      I loved the flick of field of dreams but this ain’t it. Save the money. Invest in the underage and clubs.

      As the author said, get control of the food and beverage contracts and make clauses for price max. and quality levels.

      Before the know it all crowd shout me down, yes it can be done. The problem is these positions of sports administrators etc are becoming more and more like politicians and want their kick backs. Hence the substandard quality and overpricing of product.

      Schoolboy matches I am sure have better quality burgers, chips and snags than what they serve up in brumbieland. At a far more reasonable price.

    • July 20th 2018 @ 4:01am
      Ex force fan said | July 20th 2018 @ 4:01am | ! Report

      While wAtching the last three WSR games at nib stadium with 11,000-15,000 others, I also had my Joe Roff moment. It is sad to watch a good entertaining game getting washed away in the rain while freezing in the cold, I also wished we had an undercover stadium like Forrest Bar in Dunedin. The poor half naked performers pre-game and during half time did well not to slip on the grass. I felt for Twiggy and his team that went all the way to entertain, managed to attract a huge crowd for the conditions, but not get all the value from their good work. However the Joe Roff in me knew it could have been a sell out if we just had an undercover stadium.

      • July 20th 2018 @ 8:57am
        Boomeranga said | July 20th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        I can understand Canberra wanting an indoor stadium but do you really need one in Perth? I thought the climate is one of the great things about the place.

        • July 20th 2018 @ 10:20am
          Ex force fan said | July 20th 2018 @ 10:20am | ! Report

          Not complaining about Perth weather, it is great. Just a pity that the last 3 WSR games had awful weather when WA had to make a point to the RA that we are still a part of Australia. However we still manage to get big crowds with a lot finding cover in the members tent and below the stands watching the game on TV screens or standing.

          • Roar Rookie

            July 20th 2018 @ 1:45pm
            piru said | July 20th 2018 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

            Perth seemed to have it in for Rugby this year – weather has been atrocious!

            • Roar Pro

              July 21st 2018 @ 4:43pm
              robel said | July 21st 2018 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

              I was getting wet in row Y of the eastern stand, just a dozen rows down from the highest, driest point in the stand.
              My son and I felt really sorry for the Samoan performers at 1/2 time and Apia Samoa players when the wind chill was around 3 degrees.

    • Roar Guru

      July 20th 2018 @ 7:06am
      peeeko said | July 20th 2018 @ 7:06am | ! Report

    • Roar Rookie

      July 20th 2018 @ 7:31am
      Paul D said | July 20th 2018 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      Can’t really comment on the experience in Canberra from security etc, but have always thought the stadium is just a long way away from town in a place that has never struck me to be overly flush with public transport options. I’m only there a few times a year for work though and either drive or stick to taxis.

      A redevelopment of Bradden RL Park, nice and close to Lonsdale St would benefit the fan experience and access for both Raiders and Brumbies fans I imagine. A 20k stadium there would be a great place to grab a feed, watch a game and head out after.

      • Roar Guru

        July 20th 2018 @ 8:56am
        Adam said | July 20th 2018 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        The talk here is that any indoor stadium will be tied to an A-League side being here as well. This means that the ground will be used all year round by 3 clubs. Even if they get the 3 teams they still have to decide on the surface of the pitch as the ACT government’s preferred option is for a synthetic pitch (if they have grass the orientation needed for the pitch in the proposed location would impede on the nearby parkway and would need changing). The Braddon RL prak is going to be the new headquarters for the Raiders. I also believe it would be an ideal location but good luck getting residents on board.

        • Roar Pro

          July 20th 2018 @ 10:53am
          Ballymore Brumby said | July 20th 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

          Well Said Adam.

          Braddon is a non-started quicker than you can say NIMBY.

          Canberra’s got form for this. Just look at how the desperately needed proposed Manuka Oval redevelopment in 2016 was destroyed by vocal, unrepresentative NIMBY-ism.
          https://www.smh.com.au/sport/saturday-serve-manuka-green-decision-sets-back-afl-and-cricket-in-canberra–20160812-gqqyiy.html

        • July 20th 2018 @ 11:36am
          Bakkies said | July 20th 2018 @ 11:36am | ! Report

          The ACT Town Council were going to fund a new stadium where the City Pool is however they had to fork out for the Mr Fluffy pink batts fiasco.

          They are planning to purchase Bruce Stadium off the ASC and AIS as they pay rent there. The stadium was only renovated 18 years ago and it looks tired already. The old scoreboard doesn’t and they didn’t put in more covered seats. The capacity is not much greater than it was previously.

          It is easy to access from the city ten minute bus ride free with your match tickets. Pubs also have bus services.

    • July 20th 2018 @ 8:03am
      mitzter said | July 20th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

      An indoor stadium would be nice as especially this time of year when the thought of being outside at night sends me chills.
      I must agree with the over use of security and ticket checkers every 10m to ensure no one move from general admission doesn’t help. The number of times I zipped off to the toilet during a penalty kick without my ticket and made to feel like a thief. But then again I don’t really care if general admission patrons move to the halfway line as long as they wait until kickoff and move if there is a paying customer. Surely having all these people stand around for 2 hour + in yellow jackets costs more than it raises.

      • July 26th 2018 @ 10:12pm
        Chris said | July 26th 2018 @ 10:12pm | ! Report

        So true and the yellow coats stewards should be volunteers from the Brumbies Rugby club etc hence they should be nice and polite.

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