Reds buck the Broncos and the trends - Green and Gold Rugby Blog
Queensland Reds

Reds buck the Broncos and the trends

Reds buck the Broncos and the trends

I don’t know about you but I was one happy rugby supporter when it was reported in The Courier Mail last Thursday (13 September) that the Reds had eclipsed the Broncos in their average crowd attendances during the 2012 season. It doesn’t matter if you are not a Reds fan — you have to admit that that is a job well done in an NRL stronghold.

Woo-hoo! We are on top! Perhaps not by a significant margin, but we are still leading the three other codes of football played in this state.

Then I started thinking: should we be really gloating? Hmmm…. Time for some research. Let’s have a look at what has been going on over the last few years.

Now, before I go on here I need to make a few statements. The numbers I have used for each year were sourced from Wikipedia. Perhaps not the most reliable stats, you might be thinking, but the easiest to find, and, since I have used the same source over the seven years, I hope a consistent reference.

I have not done the whole statistical analysis. Read into the raw data what you will, and remember the expression: ‘there are lies, damned lies and statistics’. I have drawn my conclusions; you may see it differently. Oh, and across all codes these are the numbers for the regular season games. They do not include pre-season or finals games.

First off, let’s just look at the Queensland side of the numbers. You can see the meteoric rise of the Reds’ crowds from the lows of 2007–09. It is amazing what an improved performance and leadership develops into. In 2009 we finished 13th out of the 14. In 2010 we just finished fifth, just missing the finals. And we all remember what happened in 2011.

Just in case you have been under a rock – the Queensland Reds were 2011 Super Rugby Champions! And before you think we are hanging our hat on one win, refer to the results for the 1992 Super 6 and the 1994 and 1995 Super 10 comps. Just sayin’. A long time between drinks, but the wait just makes them a little sweeter. (Yes, I have been around for that long….)

The improved results have brought about a rise in our membership numbers, from a little over 5,000 in 2009 to more than 34,000 this year. If we reach the target of 40,000 in 2013 it will be a stunning transformation from being, let’s face it, the joke of Australian rugby during much of the previous decade.

After a moment of feeling proud that my boys had knocked the Broncos off the top of the heap, I started to wonder how some of the other numbers stacked up. But first I thought I would just compare Super Rugby and the NRL, since they are the most closely related and traditional competing codes.

Wow! Was that unexpected or what? I really thought that the NRL numbers would be higher.

What is a concern is the rather significant decline in numbers attending rugby games. I would expect that the decline from 2006 to 2008 is the downside of a spike generated by RWC 2003. And it does appear that the decline is bottoming out, and this has to be a good indicator. Isn’t it?

So let’s have a look at a comparison of the Aussie rugby franchises. Now guys, can I gloat just for an insy-winsy minute? How you like them apples? The Reds are the reason rugby crowds are holding their overall own. In the last two seasons the Waratahs have been over 30 per cent behind us!

But, taking off my Reds hat, and rummaging through my bag of tricks to find my Aussie rugby hat…. Ahhhhh, St Leonards, we may have a problem.

The Waratahs and Brumbies are showing only a gradual decline, but the trend is still in the wrong direction. The Rebels have not been around for long enough to draw any meaningful conclusions. And of biggest concern is the plunge of the Force from top to bottom in five seasons. What has happened in our western province? Surely not that many people have moved from WA to Queensland.

From a Reds perspective you can come to the conclusion that success breeds support. And yes, I am sure that their success during 2010–11 has been a significant factor in the increased crowd numbers. But have there been other factors? And can these factors be identified and transferred to the other franchises?

While we are considering that – GO THE REDS! And if you want to see a good rugby crowd, come to Suncorp for a game next year.

Clarification: Although I’ve referred to the Reds as ‘we’ throughout this article, I am not associated with the Reds other than as a member, season ticket holder, and long-term (some might say long-suffering) supporter.

  • Rugby

    Yeah great numbers, but the Queensland Reds only focus on Brisbane, hence why Rugby is dying a slow death in Queensland Country. The Queensland Rugby should be called the Brisbane Rugby Union.

    • suckerforred

      That is a whole other discussion….

    • RugbyNoddy

      Hi Rugby, I work for the QRU, would be interested to here more of your issues about what the organisation isn’t doing for Country Rugby as I know we devote a hell of a lot of resouce to it.

  • kronic

    The decline in the Force’s membership is due to moving from Subiaco to Perth Oval.

    • suckerforred

      I see that the capacity of Perth oval is about 19,500. Interesting that the move was made despite the ground not being able to hold their average game attendance up to that point. The trend is still down though so capacity can’t be the only thing.

      Is Perth Oval hard to get to as compared to Subiaco? Is the atmosphere different, in a negative way?

      I have never been to either, hence the questions. Personally I hate watching rugby on an oval ground, but consessions have to be made to allow for maximum attendance.

      • NTA

        I suspect it would be more costly to hire Subiaco, plus being a big oval it would be more crap to watch rugby at. The two stadia are only 5km apart.

        Fact is, by moving, they should have managed to sell it out every week they play there. The current redevelopment ( of the stadium should increase seating numbers available, but will it fix attendance?

        The decline in the Force attendance is due to their performance. This is unlikely to improve with the retirement of Sharpe and departure of Pocock, in addition to the turmoil they’ve had with coaching.

        The Waratahs are in the same boat for the same reasons, despite having a much larger rugby fan base which they seem keen on alienating with brainless management and the petty gatekeeping tactics employed by their political entities. The sooner Cheika is appointed with free rein, the better.

      • Dave

        Subiaco oval isn’t the best venue for rugby. There’s no doubt that Perth oval provides a better viewing experience. It’s a bit harder to get to and parking is a pain. But, like you say, success breeds support. The Blue army, as loyal as “we” are, still require success if we are to continue to hand over our mining dollars.

        While winning is the obvious catalyst to the Reds’ success there are probably a few more factors. They seem to be rather accessible to their supporters, actively participating in the rugby community, and others. They have a few of the more active Twitterers in Australia. Ewen included. This is an all too important aspect in today’s social oriented media. Add into that the more social players also being regular Wallabies. And if that’s not enough they have arguably the best rugby ground in Australia.

        I’m not saying the Force don’t do similar community based initiatives, they do, probably just as much. But these things become exponentially potent to the fan base when you add success into the mix.

      • The Other Dave

        In a state in the throes of an unprecedented mining boom, they took sponsorship from a guy with shady links to Russia who was selling a tablet that curtailed fuel comsumption. Good due diligence.

        Subi has a huge playing surface and ageing facilities, and the WAFC no doubt charged a rent appropriate for a winter competitor to WCE and FFC. But on the flipside, it is serviced by two railway stations and surrounded by pubs, clubs and restaurants. I wonder if they could have held on there a bit longer, at least until the A-League started up?

  • johnny-boy

    The most important factor in my opinion was the Reds were playing an exciting brand of rugby. Not just winning. And a big part of that was Quade & Digby and Genia etc. It saved Australian rugby from the doldrums. It inspired people. Including those from other states and the dark side.

    The biggest marketing coup ever was Quade regularly saying publicly he just enjoyed playing with his mates and having fun. Pure marketing gold. If ever you wanted to attract young blokes to play rugby, that was it.

    Tragically we currently have the ARU trying to kill him off with a complete dunce in charge. Sheer madness.

    Fair enough the Reds were still a bit hungover from 2011 this year but they need to hit the ground running in 2013 to keep the faith.

    If Richard Graham comes to the Reds with his cowardly negative smart arse attitude from the Force where he encouraged his players to kick to the Tahs so the Tahs would kick back and get booed by their fans he’ll be the most despised man in QLD. The most despicable display of coaching I have ever seen.

  • RedsHappy

    SFR – good work, and well researched and written up. Thank you. The facts are completely clear.

    The fanatics and blindly loyal will continue to deny it, but unless the general management, coaching quality, structures and genuine care for all levels of rugby code development in Australia are urgently improved, rugby will hit a negative ‘tipping point’ in 2014-15 where sponsorship, gate and media $s will exponentially decline in unison, and the code’s diminished position may thus become irrecoverable.

  • NTA

    Well done the Reds. There is playing winning rugby (the Tahs a few years ago), and there is playing watchable rugby. In addition, the off-field team appear to all be pulling in the same direction, and this helps just as much as the team performances.

    Here in Tahland we don’t seem to have that. Once you join the Waratahs, you seem to contract an allergy to moving anywhere west of the M3.

    It is interesting to see the NRL attendances, because despite it being a huge sport in this part of the world, the fact is TV attendance is still much higher than bums on seats. Unsurprising given the three games a week on FTA and the other games all live on FoxSports.

    Contrast that to the AFL where ground attendances remain healthy because the live game is far superior to the TV offering, and the tribalism is far more entrenched despite it being an expansion sport.

    • The Other Dave

      I’d be interested to see whether the NRL’s ratings are due to people actually sitting down to watch it at home, or whether it’s from pubs/RSLs playing it to uninterested patrons. Either way, the NRL has a big warchest now, so expect them to start pumping its resources into western Sydney… shame the ARU Old Boys’ Association lacked the foresight to do this after the RWC 2003.

    • The Other Dave

      Oh, and Channel Nine: WTF?

    • Pete

      Where’s the M3?

  • Deez

    Nice article and love the Red bias (I can appreciate it – Long suffering Reds fan here too!).

    In general i agree w most of the posts made here around a coordinated marketing effort of entertaining product, accessible stars and of course success on the field. In QLDs case, it took a major reshuffle of the chairs in admin to get it done, but I think some moves towards making game day more attractive and the play on the field more entertaining could be replicated elsewhere.

    And another note on Perth – smaller, particularly rectangular stadiums are SO much better for atmosphere. Sure, if you can pack a big stadium w rabid fans that’s even better again (like Suncorp – best ground for watching rugby in AUS), but failing that watching in a crammed 15k stadium with cheering fans all round is much better than 30k corporate types in 80k seat home bush on Sydney (have done the latter multiple times and even w 30k it feels empty).

    I think the strategy has to be to increase access and interest in the game more generally rather than just try to get bums on seats in the short term. Build up a fan base, even of they have to watch games on TV – this will be much better than just getting some corporates to buy extra stadium tickets for their clients. Fans buy jerseys, fans get involved, fans get on club and player websites, fans play the game and encourage their friends to play the game. Do this and the monetization will come (whether through advertising for watching on TV/accessing websites, jersey sales or tickets to games etc).

  • Redslug

    Hey SFR nice work and yes understand your pride after being in the same Reds boat from the Ballymore years. Doggedly buying tickets rain or shine, driving up from the coast just to see our team play, being ready for another lose but always living in hope for that win.
    The gut wrench pain when the Force started and the exodus began, best thing for us but hindsight brings pleasure and understanding. But look what the tide brought in, the Link attitude, even we the fans, I believe, embraced his attitude and passion for the team.
    Live with lose long enough and binds the core membership, the Brumbies are going through the same process, just not as long as the Reds. This decline in the Tahs is probably what they need to create the passion and the need to win not just for the status of being a Tah but because they play the game the best and for the fans!
    Yes I know this is about the passion and not the stats but I have exposed and infected a lot of friends with Rugby by not going to functions because the game is on (they know when the season is on) taking them to the games, showing them the passion. These friends and family have come from other codes league, AFL and no sport at all.
    For years we had family tickets (4) last year we had a group of 6, this year 18 seats hopefully next year that will increase again it is affordable and easy to get to, with the free public transport and the fan days and twitter. What else could you want!

  • justtacklehim

    Do you have any understanding of how those numbers crowd attendance numbers compare to SA and NZ super games? What about Heiniken Cup?

    PS. Great article. Love the passion.

    • suckerforred

      Just looking at that exact thing now……

  • Justtacklehim

    Brilliant. Look forward to it :)

Queensland Reds

Rugby fetishist. Reds & Wallabies supporter. Have been known to watch all grades & levels. Warning - gets fired up! And yes I am a GIRL..........

More in Queensland Reds