Rugby Union


Where have the Canberra crowds gone?

ACT Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher believes Super Rugby needs to expand its fan base beyond the "hardcore supporters" with the club's lowest crowd in 15 years set to cost the outfit up to $30,000.

Just 7129 fans watched the Brumbies beat the Auckland Blues 26-9 on Friday night, as dismal weather contributed to the lowest attendance at a Canberra Stadium Super Rugby contest since a tiny 4000 in 1999.

It was the sixth-lowest crowd at Canberra Stadium for Brumbies and Canberra Raiders games inĀ 15 years.

The disappointing turnout will send warnings to the Raiders and AFL's Greater Western Sydney, who go head-to-head with cross-town, cross-code fixtures in Canberra on Saturday.

The Raiders will play their second home game against the Newcastle Knights at 3pm at Canberra Stadium while the Giants will play the first of their AFL matches in the capital against the Western Bulldogs at 4.40pm at Manuka Oval.

The schedule clash could affect crowds at both venues and, when they competed in April last year, the Giants attracted almost 1500 more fans than the Raiders.


The Brumbies had hoped for at least 10,000 supporters, but two days of rain, which forced the ACT government to close all sport venues over the weekend, limited walk-up sales as fans opted to stay at home or watch from the pub.

All codes, including the NRL and AFL, have been down on crowd numbers this year.

The Brumbies are hoping an Anzac Day grand final rematch against the Waikato Chiefs will boost crowd figures and help them recoup the financial losses of the game against the Blues.

"We've got a hardcore group and then there's a group that comes on entertainment and spectacle," Fisher said.

"I guess what we have to do is increase the hardcore rugby supporters so if rain, hail or shine, you get 12,000 instead of 7000.

"We have to work to get that group of people together. One of the challenges of rugby is whether it's more entertainment or to say, 'here's a team representing your region that's showing good character and working hard'.

"In Europe, it's about supporting a team. You're not a fan, you're a rusted-on supporter who's part of the team."

The Raiders have played just one home game this season, attracting 9636 against the Gold Coast Titans, which was more than a 1000 increase on the corresponding fixture two years ago.

They have played four of their first five games on the road, but will return to Canberra to play against the Newcastle Knights this week and are eager to make amends for their disappointing showing in a 24-12 loss to the Titans.

"Hopefully we can make up for our last efforts at home, it was probably our worst performance of the year,'' Terry Campese said.

"We want to get back and make the home crowd proud again.''

The Brumbies rely on walk-up ticket sales to boost crowd numbers with every 1000 fans representing about $10,000.

The Brumbies battled against the Canberra Show and Skyfire for their two big-selling home games against the Reds and Waratahs, attracting 13,670 and 17,016 respectively.

One of the biggest challenges in Super Rugby is selling tickets to games against international teams who don't have supporters in Australia.

More than 11,000 fans watched the Brumbies beat the Cape Town Stormers.

"Watching it on TV is now so good it gives people an excuse to stay home or watch it in the pub," Brumbies chief executive Doug Edwards said.

"We met with one of the hotels and they showed us a video. There were 57 people there wearing a Brumbies jumper during the game. That means people are still proud and want to support their team, but it's easier for them not to go to the ground.

"That's something we have to work on and all sports do. We've put a band on and are trying to increase game-day entertainment. It can be done, they've done it in the Twenty20 cricket."


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