Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has called on administrators to ensure Super Rugby’s next broadcast deal puts the game on free-to-air television.
Super Rugby crowds are at record lows this season and Canberra has been no exception, despite the Brumbies sitting on top of the Australian conference.
Rugby Australia has been plagued by off-field drama for several years which has turned some fans away, but McKellar is confident the game can recover.
McKellar says the crucial next step is getting the game into every home in Australia and not just the 30 per cent which have subscriptions to Super Rugby broadcaster Foxtel.
The next television deal will be negotiated from 2021 onwards and McKellar said it was paramount to get games on a free-to-air network.
“Get it on free-to-air, definitely get it on free-to-air. Whoever is doing the next television deal, make sure that happens so that all the kids have access to see the best players running around,” McKellar said.
“Your (David) Pocock’s, your (Christian) Lealiifano’s, your (Scott) Sio’s, Quade Cooper, Henry Speight … all these sorts of players, we’ve got to make sure every little boy and girl in the country has access to them and aspires to play rugby union.
“At the moment we’re sort of hidden away. Fox are tremendous in their support of the game but I think free-to-air would certainly be a real positive change.”
The Brumbies came under criticism for their game style by former player Justin Harrison earlier this month and McKellar said it was time the rugby community banded together.
“Just talk positively about the game. We’ve got rugby union people that are bashing rugby union, like why are we doing that?” McKellar said.
“We’re starting to see the benefits of four teams and two Australian sides might sneak into the finals. We’ve got a World Cup this year … let’s start talking about the good things and the footy instead of worrying about beating ourselves up all the time.
“All we can do is perform well on weekends and put on a good product for our fans … then hopefully they’ll come back and drag a few more people along.
“People love the game, it’s the people that are sort of 50-50 that sit on the fence. At the moment they’re on the other side of the fence and we have to bring them back.”