There has been a lot of talk recently about relocating a team from Sydney to either greater Brisbane or Perth.
It seems that the prevailing logic is that there are too many teams in the Sydney area to be viable.
I don’t necessarily agree with that logic at all. I’d rather my team die than relocate, and I don’t think I’m even close to the Lone Ranger in that view.
I view the suggestion that a side should be relocated from the Sydney area as the type of logic that could only emanate from people with only a financial attachment to the game, or those who know that their team is in no danger of relocation.
Uprooting a side from its historical heartland risks killing a little bit more of the game’s soul.
There is a hollow and distant look in the eyes of North Sydney Bears and Newtown supporters. It’s one I never want to have. It’s one I don’t want to have inflicted on another supporter.
They don’t really care. Sure, they might watch the grand finals and State of Origin, but their passionate love for the game has gone.
However, if a side is to be relocated, there is an obvious choice: The Sydney Roosters.
“WTF?!?!” I hear you cry.
“Not only are they the reigning NRL Premiers, they have been in seven of the last 19 grand finals. They are a foundation club. You can’t be serious!”
I’m deadly serious.
It makes perfect sense. It is completely logical. The numbers support it.
And that’s what controls the game these days: numbers.
The biggest number controlling the game is the numerical value of the broadcast deal. That dollar value influences all sorts of things including the absolute pre-eminence of State of Origin and how the NRL devises the draw for each season.
If a team is to be relocated it should be one for whom the numbers were the poorest. Not in regard to actual current success, but in regards to their actual fan-base and potential to grow that base.
The issue for the Roosters is that when you actually look at all of the numbers it is hard to see how they would not be the clear favourite for relocation.
Memberships and crowds
The first criteria that I would look at if I was contemplating relocating a team would be the side’s actual membership. These figures show the membership numbers for each of the teams in the greater Sydney area so far in 2019, as well as for the previous four seasons.
As you can see, the Roosters – the current NRL Premiers – have the second lowest memberships so far this year. Only the Sea Eagles are below them.
Both the Bulldogs and the Eels are having a fairly rough time of it right now results wise and they are both in front of the Roosters. The Eels have over 9,000 more members in spite of collecting the wooden spoon in 2018.
Imagine how big the Bulldogs and Eels membership numbers would be if they were experiencing the type of good results that the Roosters are.
In every season from 2015 onwards the Roosters have been below the membership average of the Sydney NRL sides.
The actual attendance numbers aren’t much better either.
|Club Name||Aggregate||2018 Average||2017 Average|
|Total||1,551,032 (172,336 avg)||14,362 (avg)||13,436 (avg)|
As you can see, the Roosters’ 2018 home crowds were below the average in spite of it being a winning season.
If the Tri-Colours can’t generate large support when they are being successful, surely that casts great doubt over their long term viability in the market place.
Location and juniors
It is widely known that actual home-grown-from-juniors Roosters are as rare as hens teeth. A large part of that is where they are based.
The Eastern Suburbs of Sydney are affluent to say the least.
It is not an area that teems with junior rugby league clubs or the sort of families that want them. Further, it is extremely unlikely that demographic is going to start moving there in significant numbers. That is unlike the areas further west, south and north that are inhabited by the fans of the Sharks, the Bulldogs, the Wests Tigers, the Eels and the Panthers.
The Dragons can pull from both the areas around Kogarah and Wollongong.
While the Rabbitohs are based virtually in the same spot as the Roosters, their membership numbers are massive and dwarf their immediate neighbours. Further, like the Dragons, the Rabbitohs have diversified their fan-base by regularly taking matches to Gosford and to Cairns.
The Sharks are drawing plenty of attention in regard to relocation. However, the Shire is a cul-de-sac. If you remove the Sharks from that area you are likely to lose those fans to the game.
That’s a stupid move.
While the Sea Eagles are in poor shape at the present moment, they are the only Sydney club north of the harbour. The NRL would be out of their minds to cede that market.
The NRL needs to get in there to help fix both those teams issues.
Then we come to the biggest market for sports fans in Australia: Western Sydney. From Campbelltown in the South, to Penrith in the West, and Blacktown in the North, the area is teeming with league fans and junior league players.
Any sports administrator who isn’t trying to get and grow a large piece of that market is an idiot. Why do you think the AFL is ploughing so much time, effort and money into GWS – a side that no one asked for and could only get a crowd of 21,290 to a home preliminary final in 2016?
Because they know that Western Sydney is key to any major sporting code in Australia being truly successful going forward.
It follows that anyone suggesting that the Eels, Bulldogs, Panthers and Wests Tigers should be relocated have little understanding of where the NRL’s strongest market is.
Giving up on any of these clubs would be totally foolhardy. You have to nurture and support them. If you aren’t irretrievably stupid that is…
Clearly the Roosters have a great administration. They are excellent at assembling very competitive sides. However, it is mostly from talent that is not from the Eastern Suburbs.
So why do they need to be based there? The crowds certainly don’t justify it.
Further, with 50 per cent of their games routinely broadcast on free-to-air each season (something their supporter base and ratings –unlike those of the Broncos or Rabbitohs – don’t obviously justify), it will still be easy for their meagre band of fans to watch them whether they are in Perth, Wellington or Brisbane.
And don’t try and use the “tradition” argument. It wasn’t able to save Newtown or North Sydney – or Western Suburbs or Balmain.
The Roosters really are the most logical candidate for relocation when the realities are examined.
However, the likelihood is that they have both the money and the influence to ensure that they are not even mentioned if and when the subject is seriously discussed.