Why are the crowds down at the footy in 2013?
NRL boss David Smith revealed this week the crowd figures have dropped almost three per cent on last year, which equates to 96,000 fans.
I think there are a bundle of reasons why the crowds have dropped.
You could fill a book with opinions on this subject.
Here are some of my thoughts.
Too much night footy. Unsuitable timeslots are starting to take their toll on the public.
I do love Sunday afternoon footy as I prefer day games over night games.
Two games on a Friday night should be scrapped.
One game on Friday at 7.30pm will captivate the interest for the fans. And select two popular and consistently performing teams. Not Brisbane most Friday nights.
Perhaps revert to announcing the draw in five week blocks like we did previously. This year the first 20 weeks schedules were locked in and there was no flexibility.
The teams running hot should be on prime time television.
The second Friday game on replay is loaded with too many advertisements and it kills the flow of the game. The coverage and post mortems by the commentators mean it’s almost midnight before it’s over. And kids are in bed then, even many of the adults.
I realise there has to be a balance with day and night games for television and commercial reasons.
But the NRL hierarchy should consult the clubs as to what timeslots they believe suits their particular fan base and demographics.
Some areas such as Penrith and Parramatta have big junior leagues and the NRL should ask their district clubs what times are best to schedule games so we can get youngsters to the games and not clash with their own footy. The kids of today are the fans of the future.
During the last five rounds of the regular season there were several 3pm kickoffs on Saturdays, which I though was a good idea.
Get rid of the 5.30pm Saturday timeslot. Play a game at 3pm and two at 7.30pm if need be on Saturdays.
Have Sunday games at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. The Channel Nine 4pm replay is dead. The game should be live, simple as that.
Television ratings for this timeslot have nosedived.
Monday night footy to me is another problem. The clubs hate it and it’s a tough night to get people at grounds for a 7pm kick-off after a grinding first day of the working week.
I know Foxtel love it because they get strong ratings and advertising revenue, but insiders at the NRL clubs will tell you they would love to give it the flick.
Facilities at grounds is another reason I believe people are not shelling out the cash for tickets.
The days are long gone when people tolerated sitting or standing on the hills at footy grounds braving the winter cold, rain and the gusty winds. I put up with it as a kid but when you reach adulthood you become fussier and want comfort and generally good value for your hard earned money.
Good quality seats and undercover seating is one answer. Some of the suburban grounds are not up to scratch.
And of course, affordability is probably the No.1 reason for a downturn in attendance numbers.
Going to the footy is becoming expensive. Admission prices, car parking, food, buying a footy program and forking out for merchandise for the children puts a hole in the pocket.
The family entertainment and leisure dollar can only be stretched so far. There are, these days, many more options for people of all ages for them to spend their money.
Throw in shiftwork and weekend work for many mums and dads — this restricts them taking their kids to the footy. Elite sports coverage on television now provides the fan with a birdseye view of the action which makes it enticing to stay in the comfort of their loungeroom and see the game from every angle.
The standard of the footy this year at times has been very good, sometimes average and some games have been poor.
The athleticism of the players has made less space on the fields thus nullifying a lot of attacking forays, even though the dimensions of the playing field are still the same.
Defences are harder to break down and they have stifled creative play.
The big trick, to give players more room and jazz up the attack, is slash the interchange from 10 to six. This will open up the game and allow the halves and five-eighths more room and outside backs freedom to show their skills.
And finally, some of the game’s big guns such as the Wests Tigers, Eels and Dragons had poor seasons which hurt the NRL fan numbers. These clubs have huge armies of followers. When these teams are winning they fill footy grounds.
My selections for the grand final qualifiers are Souths to defeat Manly and the Knights to beat the Roosters.