NRL crowd attendances are forecast to take yet another worrying slide this year with punters expected to shun Thursday night football in favour of watching from their lounge rooms.
Figures in the NRL’s 2015 annual report released this week revealed average attendance last season slid to 15,078 – down five per cent from 15,906 the previous year.
There was cause for optimism for those at the game’s headquarters at Moore Park, with State of Origin numbers up 21 per cent – on the back of a bumper 91,000-strong crowd at game II at the MCG – and growth in the finals attendance (353,087 up from 322,666) and memberships.
However, less than a week out from the season opener between Brisbane and Parramatta, there’s no shying away from the disconcerting drop in people through the gates.
The overall season attendance last year was 2.89 million, down from 3.05 million in 2014 and 3.15 million in 2012.
Since 2012, average attendances have steadily dropped from 16,415 and the NRL says that’s expected to dive yet again in 2016 with the introduction of regular Thursday night football.
Crowds are inherently weaker for weeknight games and, with 16 Thursday matches scheduled, the average regular season attendance could drop below 15,000.
“Next year, we will regularly have games on two weeknights – Mondays and Thursdays – and this is forecast to affect attendances but the overall impact on our schedule changes will be positive for the game overall,” the NRL’s annual report says.
The NRL says it is working on getting fans through the gates, with its new “Be There When History Happens” ad campaign which spruiks the excitement of being at the ground.
It has also welcomed the NSW government’s promise to spend $1.6 billion on a rectangular stadium network at ANZ Stadium, Moore Park and Parramatta.
It says upgrades to big stadiums and providing the comforts that modern fans have come to expect are key to keeping turnstiles ticking over.
“There will be less attendance than on a weekend – that’s not unusual,” a NRL spokesman said.
“But that will be offset by more people watching on TV. It’s a balancing act.
“We do want bigger crowds and we’re working with the clubs on that, we’re working on pricing and game day experience and trying to boost crowds.”
THROUGH THE GATES:
NRL season attendance:
* 2012 – 3,151,660
* 2013 – 3,060,421
* 2014 – 3,053,880
* 2015 – 2,894,944
NRL average attendance:
* 2012 – 16,415
* 2013 – 15,940
* 2014 – 15,906
* 2015 – 15,078
NRL finals series attendance:
* 2012 – 333,352
* 2013 – 284,717
* 2014 – 322,666
* 2015 – 353,087
NRL finals average attendance:
* 2012 – 37,039
* 2013 – 31,635
* 2014 – 35,852
* 2015 – 39,232