The NRL admit there’s concern about the low crowds across the opening round of the new season with the A-League recording a higher average this weekend.
The NRL’s hopes of boosting crowds in 2014 have suffered an early setback, with disappointing round-one attendance figures not even matching the A-League’s average.
Chief executive Dave Smith this month vowed to increase crowd figures and club memberships this season and while TV viewing numbers were extremely high, it was the traditional poor cousins of the NRL that had more clicks through the turnstiles.
The highest crowd of the opening seven games of the round was the 27,282 who attended Thursday’s blockbuster between bitter rivals South Sydney and reigning premiers the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium.
It was less than half from last year’s final-round minor premiership showdown between the same teams at the same venue and also well down on the 35,952 at Allianz Stadium for the 2013 season opener between the Roosters and Rabbitohs.
In comparison, the A-League’s derby between Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers had 40,285 fans pack into Allianz Stadium contributing to an average attendance of 16,870 per game across five games – with the NRL registering 16,753 after seven games.
According to OzTam ratings figures released on Sunday, 313,000 people nationwide tuned in to see Cameron Smith kick the match winning extra-time field goal for Melbourne, while the Sydney Derby attracted 94,000 fans on Fox Sports.
The NRL’s other matches, North Queensland v Canberra drew 258,000 viewers, while Penrith and Newcastle’s afternoon match attracted 187,000 fans.
The NRL’s Head of Football Todd Greenberg admitted the low crowds were a concern to the code.
“There is no doubt we would like some bigger numbers in round one,” Greenberg told ABC Grandstand radio.
“We have been talking to our clubs a lot to see how we can improve the live experience and that won’t happen overnight.
“(Thursday night) was a selection from the broadcasters who have paid handsomely for the commercial right and they chose to place that game then.”