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Where have the Canberra crowds gone?


Chris Dutton and Lee Gaskin

There were plenty of empty seats at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.

There were plenty of empty seats at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.

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 in 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."


  • One - supporter bays so you don't have to put up with morons from out of town who spend the night bagging everything. Two - re-issue the concessions to a company that will sell food and drink (especially beer) at reasonable prices. At least you can get a decent coffee now at GIO Stadium. I had one once that I would only wish on my worst enemy. Three - some decent half time entertainment. What the Raiders deliver is cheap and amateurish. I can't even remember what the Brumbies did at halftime in the game against the Reds. Four - warm up the crowd before kick-off. Someone who can deliver more than the usual "are there any X fans in the house?" routine. I can build up more anticipation for a game when I'm at home than when I've been to some games.

    Home Not Alone
    Date and time
    April 06, 2014, 11:24PM
    • Gees mate, you call yourself a 'supporter' and you want half time entertainment. That's the time set aside for discussion with your mates about what just went right (or wrong). The last thing any of the codes is dancing bears at half time.

      wear the fox hat
      Date and time
      April 07, 2014, 6:24AM
    • The food costs at the footy are reasonable. They sell $10 kebabs which are excellent. Ive bort them at the last 3 Raiders games and they were top notch. Kebabs near to my work in Barton cost $9.

      Now people dont attend Raiders games because this team gets almost no FTA TV games from Ch9, ergo there is no buzz nor publicity around the team. You feel you are part of a greater audience if the game is shown live on TV. In the 2012 finals series the Raiders virtually sold out vs Cronulla - 24,000 fans.

      Date and time
      April 07, 2014, 8:30AM
    • @ wear the fox hot - you've missed the point. The question is about how to attract "new" supporters to the game. "Home not alone" has made some decent suggestions. As someone who lived in the UK for a large number of years after Uni, I can say Australian fans are (generally) THE worst. I went to football (that's soccer here) , rugby, cricket matches pretty much every single week....and every week, in every code, the supporters were a million times better. The author is spot on when they say Europeans (and the US seems to be the same) have die-hard supporters....they're just a little bit blase and blah here. Didn't used to be like that. I remember growing up (and supporting the Eels....Sterlo!!!) and the stadium was packed and loud....funny....the population were fitter and slimmer back then too....maybe our love affair with sport died out at about the same time our waist lines started expanding?!!??

      Date and time
      April 07, 2014, 9:20AM
    • Of course tickets and parking are expensive, the ground isn’t used enough. The playing surface should never have been made smaller to exclude AFL or cricket.

      Any new stadium should be big enough for all the popular sports in Australia, not just limited to a few.

      Of course this will be rejected by the NRL trying to stop AFL moving into its turf, and also Soccer which as a new-born summer sport is hoping to knock off Cricket. Accordingly the people of Canberra get second best in the silly fight between the codes.

      Any new stadium should be for all citizens of Canberra and have re-configurable seating to make sure it is used as much as possible to keep prices down.

      Date and time
      April 07, 2014, 10:35AM
  • I suggest that the Brumbies don't hire security guards whose sole purpose seems to be to ensure that people with General Admission tickets don't sit in VACANT seats in other areas. What is the point of this? Especially when it is raining. Just nasty. A great way to discourage people from attending games.

    Date and time
    April 07, 2014, 3:59AM
    • The one brand of beer available is overpriced and very ordinary! But different to the pub!

      Date and time
      April 07, 2014, 4:20AM
      • My daughter and I were members from 2004 until 2011 when we finally decided that we would no longer get season passes. Canberra Stadium food prices etc was part of the reason plus the ground announcer that treated us all like small children telling us when to cheer became very irritating. I completed a lengthy surgery that year on why we weren't renewing our membership but would continue to support the Brumbies and go to games.
        I've never received any more correspondence from the Brumbies since then. No emails, no more weekly updates, nothing to us as past members with advice when the new memberships are on sale. It's as if we no longer exist.
        I'm sure we are not the only ones that this happened to. And plenty people left after the disappointing 2011 season.

        Date and time
        April 07, 2014, 5:24AM
        • Look at the prices charged to start with! Your hit with $7 parking fee before you get out of your car, then for a family of 4 2A 2C $113.00 plus a $5.50 booking fee to Ticketek and your up for $125.50 to get in the door! GIO Stadium & Others look at prices and then you may get a decent crowd support! When people are faced with those costs plus the weather, no wonder people choose to stay away!

          Date and time
          April 07, 2014, 6:35AM
          • Yep. Unavoidable Ticketek booking fee is a disgrace.

            Date and time
            April 07, 2014, 7:30AM

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