Pat McCabe slides in for a try.... but there wasn't much of an audience for him on Friday night.

Pat McCabe slides in for a try.... but there wasn't much of an audience for him on Friday night. Photo: Rohan Thomson

As rain hammered down on the roof of our Fyshwick newsroom on Friday morning, I did something I'm not proud of. I asked that my name be withdrawn from the hat to win a free pass to the Brumbies game that night.

Yep, I didn't want to run the risk of winning a freebie. What a sook. What a fair-weather fan.

It can be lonely at Canberra Stadium in the wet ... Raiders fans brave the rain.

It can be lonely at Canberra Stadium in the wet ... Raiders fans brave the rain. Photo: Colleen Petch

The very small crowd at Friday's match has reopened the long-running debate around crowds and how our sporting teams are going to survive if people stop turning up to the games.

People have gone off their footy, or at least gone off going out to the game.

The reasons are many. Ticket prices, food and drink prices, carparking charges, traffic snarls, poor public transport, boring style of play, frivolous style of play, no atmosphere, too cold, too wet, too late, not enough entertainment, the wrong kind of entertainment or, perhaps the most compelling - it's just too easy at home or the pub.

The problem for a CEO of a club is they have little control over most of these factors, particularly the scheduling.

Sure, 7.40pm on a Friday night, especially at the end of a wet week, is a hard sell to get anyone to go out to the game. But it's a brilliant time if you're unwinding at home with pizza and a bottle of merlot after a big week at work.

Super Rugby is a child of pay TV and is at the mercy of its commercial needs. As an orphan, the competition's life expectancy would not be long.

So what's the answer?

Do we accept that footy should be something we consume on screen and not in person? If we did, the Brumbies would be broke in a season.

But we have to be honest. When you choose whether to go to a game or not, you are acting as a consumer. It's your money and no amount of guilt-tripping will make you pay for something that you don't find good value.

The only likely answer I can see is the expensive one, the one with a price tag of perhaps $300-$400 million. It's the stadium-in-the-city idea again.

I wrote extensively on this topic about 2010-11 when there was a prospect of a soccer World Cup and us being virtually gifted a stadium during what would've been a coast-to-coast infrastructure cash splash.

If Australia won hosting rights we were to have a 27,000-40,000 seater plonked down next to the existing Canberra Stadium. The expedience of quick and cheap overruled long-term planning.

But the spectacular failure of that bid meant we'd have to do it with our own money - but at least it'd be done in the right place.

That place is in the heart of the city, where most of the problems cited for poor crowds are addressed. Easy access, good food and drink options nearby, parking, and, importantly in our winter, a roof.

What you get with that is The Match Day Experience. This is the enjoyment you get from the atmosphere at a ground as much as the on-field action itself.

In often bleak Dunedin, the Highlanders saw an immediate 70 per cent boost in crowd numbers when they moved to their enclosed Forsyth Barr stadium, the one that counts our Minister Barr as a fan. Dunedin wore the big costs, including the realised prospects of blowouts, because they believed in the opportunities for the city.

A stadium like theirs doesn't work just as a football ground, but as a venue for concerts and conferences.

A stadium in the city would give Canberra infrastructure in the right place and suited to the consumer who is time poor but choice rich.

The option to put their money into their local team's coffers and not into a pay-TV subscription has to be a more attractive option than it is right now when even a freebie can fail to win you over.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.