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Canberra sports crowds inflated in the past, Sports Minister Andrew Barr claims


Lee Gaskin and Jon Tuxworth

Empty seats: Another small crowd at Canberra Stadium last year.

Empty seats: Another small crowd at Canberra Stadium last year. Photo: Melissa Adams

ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr claims crowd figures to Canberra's professional football codes have been inflated in previous years, leading to lower recorded numbers this year.

Officials from the Raiders and Brumbies are in agreement about the need for the proposed indoor stadium in Civic to go ahead to boost crowd numbers.

Attendances at the Brumbies and the Raiders at Canberra Stadium have come under the spotlight after the early part of the NRL and Super Rugby seasons.

Just 7129 fans watched the Brumbies beat the Auckland Blues 26-9 last Friday night in driving rain, the lowest crowd to a Canberra Stadium Super Rugby game since a tiny 4000 in 1999.

The Raiders attracted just 9636 fans against the Gold Coast Titans last month, however that was an increase of more than 1000 people on the corresponding fixture two years ago.

The Raiders are back at home this Saturday at 3pm against the Newcastle Knights, with the GWS Giants hosting the Western Bulldogs an hour and a half later at 4.40pm at Manuka Oval.

"I think they're actually more honest figures, I think the crowd figures have been inflated in previous years, often by 2000,'' Barr said.

"If you were to go back and look at what the actual numbers were before the inflation of numbers, it wouldn't reflect as much of a downward trend that people might think.

"Undoubtedly weather has been a major factor, as is who the local teams are playing against."

Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the discrepancy was more likely to be in the hundreds because of changes to how members and NRL junior pass holders were accounted for stemming from upgrades to the ticketing system at Canberra Stadium.

"In years gone by, the scanners didn't pick up the junior passes and the members are a sold seat, so there used to be a factor but no way [was it 2000],'' Furner said.

"The scanners now pick up everything, so we're more confident everything gets picked up.

"There's a lot less they allow us to put on top."

Barr admitted it wasn't ideal that the Raiders and Giants were playing on the same day, but said the government was using initiatives such as free public transport with a pre-purchased game ticket to entice patrons along.

The ACT government has raised the prospect of building an indoor stadium in Civic within the next decade, something Furner said was essential.

"We need a newer stadium undercover and with Wi-Fi capabilities so that the experience at the ground is better than the experience at home,'' Furner said.

"All sport faces a challenge for the entertainment dollar, that's why we would, along with the ACT government, push for an enclosed stadium.

''Out of all the cities in Australia, we have the toughest weather conditions to sell sport in.''

Interim Brumbies chief executive Doug Edwards hoped that still remained on the cards.

"It would have fixed everything,'' Edwards said.

"We would have had 12,000 or 15,000 if we had an indoor stadium.

"I know the minister's working on that, it's something he's quite passionate about and he's pushing forward with it."

24 comments so far

  • In the 90's, fans went to Brumbies,Cannons,Raiders games, it's the cost, and the entertainment product has dropped off in quality, not that people have got lazy and don't enjoy watching live sport. In the EPL soccer in Europe fans brave the cold every weekend.
    And the excuse of 7.30pm or even 8pm too late to kick-off is nonsense, as in the 90's we tolerated that and didn't care. When the Raiders had the great sides in the 90's friday night games at Canberra stadium were fine, same when the Cannons were around and were good, and when the Brumbies had a star studded side. Now the costs have got so expensive to attend a game, and the NRL has got soft, banning the biff and shoulder charge, watered the game down so much, and rugby's problem is the endless penalties and scrum-resets. Fans will pay if the tickets go down a bit, and the product is more entertaining.

    Of Kambah
    Date and time
    April 08, 2014, 6:37AM
    • Can only agree Matt. We looked at membership of the Brumbies - for the cost of membership you get home ground tickets, a car sticker and a cap. For far less we can go to each home ground and buy a cap at the clearing sales each year! Quite prepared to go to matches in the rain and sleet if they are good matches - couple of weeks ago we went to the Brumbies Tahs match. Sure Brumbies won, but so boring! Lost count of the numbers of mates who decided Foxtel was a better option than Brumbies membership. Far too expensive for everything in the oval for what you get.

      Date and time
      April 08, 2014, 8:35AM
  • Here's a primary reason crowds ate also low, League and Union simply aren't that popular. A lot of people are sick of the news outlets and TV pushing these sports onto us. Australia has changed and we play global sports now.

    Date and time
    April 08, 2014, 6:57AM
    • If you had said 'AFL and league' I would have agreed. Union *IS* a global sport, albeit not as big as soccer but arguably about the same as basketball.

      Date and time
      April 08, 2014, 7:24AM
    • If soccer ever became the dominant pro-sport in Australia it would be a sad day indeed. I love the sporting cultural diversity in Australia. It makes the place unique and interesting. That's something to be proud of. Who cares if AFL is not played elsehwere? Who cares if rugby league only has a small international scene? WHo cares if rugby union is small compared to soccer? I don't.

      Soccer taking over in Oz would be like McDonalds and coke becoming the dominant foods in the world ... boring.

      Date and time
      April 08, 2014, 10:02AM
    • @Dave - Let's talk about diversity for a second - If you want to see 21st century Australia in all of it's multi-cultural excitement and bliss (in a sporting context), you need only switch to SBS/Fox and watch the Western Sydney Wanderers in their weekly packed out stadium with dozens and dozens of different nationalities supporting the sport they love and that the world plays. Everybody in the modern day community of Australia is welcome and included. I don't see that with League, Union or AFL. You clearly love your hand-egg games, and that's great, but many people don't, as evidenced by the supporter numbers and specifically this article.

      Date and time
      April 08, 2014, 11:28AM
    • @Mark

      Really? you don't see that in union eh? tell that to the islander players and fans, or the irish, or the Japanese (yep, there are Japanese players and fans) or the indigenous players and fans, or the french, yarpies (of all colours) or eastern european fans... plenty of diversity in union! and, as much as it pains me to admit it, the same is true of AFL.

      league ... well, I don't go to games so I can't comment... besides, if you can't say anything nice....

      Date and time
      April 08, 2014, 12:20PM
    • FD in Singapore rugby union is hardly global. In Africa there are 16 out of 56 countries that are full members of the IRB. I lived in Namibia, the 2nd ranked team in Africa, for 2 years and did not see any rugby union being played. Rugby union exists but is tiny. Even in South Africa rugby union is smaller than football. This pattern of rugby union overstating its importance is replicated in Asia, southern America. And long may it continue as rugby union is a boring and eltist game.

      Matilda's Fan
      Date and time
      April 08, 2014, 12:42PM
    • @Matilda's Fan

      Nice straw-mans argument. Still didn't address the issue in question: is rugby a global game? the answer is YES. Sure, it is small fry compared to soccer, but so is the NFL, CFL, NRL, ALF etc. But in terms of number of countries that play it, it's more than any other football code and in addition, it is frequently the second most popular code. So it's a silver medalist. Big whoop. It's still global, exciting and inclusive!

      Date and time
      April 08, 2014, 6:13PM
  • I'm not sure the Brumbies crowd on Friday was that much of a shock. It had rained for a week for crying out loud. I myself have to apologise for not going as my wife had something on and I had to mind the kids.

    If people really wanted to go you can get tickets for next to nothing. You can get 2 tickets and a burger at one of many establishments for $38, so a family being fed is only $76. Don't want to pay for parking? Park at CIT or over the ridge. Bring your own water, coffee, chips and softies for the kids. Now what's your excuse for not going?

    Date and time
    April 08, 2014, 7:19AM

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