So this is an easy one. Crowds just aren’t showing up to ANZ Stadium. Week after week two teams meet in front of a largely empty stadium sucking the ambience out of a match no matter how important or great. Why was ANZ Stadium built? For the Olympics. For big events such as State of Origin, World Cup qualifiers, Sydney derbies. Not a regular season match. So it’s obvious that games need to be moved away.
Let’s take a look at the crowd attendances at ANZ Stadium. For the sake of this argument let’s say anything less than 50 per cent capacity is acceptable.
Take away the matches at Belmore Sports Ground and at Forsyth Barr Stadium the Bulldogs have played six matches at ANZ Stadium (83,500) and their two highest crowds have been 35,984 (against South Sydney) and 24,083 (against St George Illawarra) both of those have been public holidays and with a stadium that can fit more than 80 thousand is really bad. Their highest non-public holiday crowd has been 15,090 (against the Roosters).
The Wests Tigers often get big crowds at Leichhardt Oval and Campbelltown Stadium, their lowest crowd was 49.6 per cent full. But their numbers aren’t much different at the bigger ANZ Stadium, their highest was 19,303 (against Canterbury), only 23.1 per cent full.
South Sydney are the same having played six matches with their highest attendance being 16,976 (against the Tigers). That’s only 20.3 per cent full.
Bulldogs aside, the Rabbits and the Tigers have both played in front of big crowds and better atmosphere when their home matches were taken away from ANZ Stadium.
And before you ask, no. It’s not an NRL problem. Brisbane’s matches at Suncorp Stadium (52,500) have ranged from 21,1917 to 47,703. Canberra’s matches at GIO Stadium (25,011) have ranged from 10,266 (where temperatures were below zero) to 17,653.
North Queensland have topped at 17,548 out of a possible 26,500. Penrith have topped at 15,780 out a possible 22,500. The Dragons topped at 16,023 at a 23,000 capacity WIN Stadium.
Grand finalists Melbourne and Cronulla have recorded crowds between 11,070 and 22,153, and 7,912 and 20,497 respectively. Even back-to-back wooden spooners Newcastle range between 12,869 and 21,412.
Penrith and the Gold Coast usually get reasonable crowds as well, however the rest of the competition, the Warriors (highest 13,826), Roosters (40,864), and Manly (11,654) have all struggled to fill seats.
So what needs to change? It’s easy for the Tigers to take their matches elsewhere but it might be harder for the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs and they could all lose a lot of money. But do the clubs need to make it easier to get to? Cheaper to attend? Or is the simpler option to leave ANZ Stadium for the big matches like State of Origin and the Grand Final?