The start to this years finals series has featured some of the most intense games in recent memory. There was the comeback from the Panthers when all seemed lost. The epic back and forth between the Roosters and the Broncos with the game going down to the wire. And who could forget the under strength and under manned Cowboys grinding out an extra time thrilling win knocking out last years premiers. The only problem with these games is no one was there to see them with only just over 75,000 fans attending the first round of matches. Something needs to be done to bring back crowd support to the NRL.
Take games away from Sydney
In a stadium that holds a capacity of 45,000, neither game played at this venue even came close to selling it. Embarrassingly the clash of two Sydney sides in Manly and Penrith, only managed to draw 15,408 spectators. To add further pie to the face of the NRL, last year’s premiers Cronulla had their season end in front of only 16,000. The decision to reward teams with a home final is a good one but a home final generally means home fans. This has not been happened. Rather than saturate the market, the NRL should consider holding each of their finals game in a well supported area of the country regardless of the teams playing. North Queensland and Brisbane would be guaranteed to sell out any football played as they consistently fill their stadiums week to week. Melbourne, despite playing host to a number of AFL games on the same weekend, draw consistent crowds and should be rewarded with a first round finals game. Perth would also be an option to host a game on neutral territory for both teams. Sydney have had their chance to come to games and they have not taken it. They host the grand final so lets give someone else a turn during the qualifying rounds.
Referee and Crowd Interaction
A number of prominent journalists have come out this week and have said that the low crowd numbers are due to a boycott by spectators due to the poor standard of refereeing. Why not give fans at the ground a chance to have their say? In a time where social media and crowd interaction is key, why not give fans that attend live games a chance to be part of the action. When a decision is sent to the bunker, those sitting in the stands could be able to vote whether they agree or disagree with the result. This could be then displayed around the grounds to see what other members of the public are thinking. By doing this, it gives the fans attending the games a voice and lets them be part of the action. Everyone thinks they could be a referee so why not give them a chance?
Giveaways and Promotions
To look at ways of attracting fans and making attending live finals games more appealing, the NRL needs to take a look at NBA. Fans at these games receive giveaways and also get to take part in a variety of promotions to encourage them to attend live events. The NRL needs to embrace the fact that is an entertainment business and that fans want more than the product on the field. Why not offer fans of teams free merchandise or giveaways from their many sponsors if their team is to score three tries? Perhaps sections of the crowd are assigned players and receive discounted tickets if their players score tries.
The NRL needs to make final games events that you feel like you have to be part of. The television coverage has never been better but the live product does not seem to change. Despite the controversy surrounding referees, the product on the field has never been better. We just need to make sure people are there to see it!