Where are the footy crowds?

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HERE are some of the reasons given to me over the past fortnight for poor crowd numbers at Canberra Stadium for the Brumbies’ and the Raiders’ games: it’s too cold; it’s too expensive both for tickets and food; the public transport is unreliable; it’s on pay TV, so why should I pay extra to go to the games? 

And also: there has been so much sport this year; I don’t like the style of rugby being played by the Brumbies; I don’t know when the games are on…

The Brumbies are perched on top of the Super Rugby ladder yet they struggle to get anywhere near the crowds they had in seasons when they were nowhere near the competition lead.

A couple of weeks ago the Brumbies played the Melbourne Rebels; a win with a bonus point would propel them into their first finals campaign since 2004 and secure a home final. Instead of an expected crowd of 15,000,  just over 11,000 turned out.

Rubbery crowd figures were once a running joke amongst the media, feeding into an exaggeration of numbers because of different football codes vying for supremacy. This season it is definitely not the case with the Canberra Stadium management taking greater control of the crowd size, which is publicly released.

Much has been said about the Brumbies’ style of play, which has a theme of kicking for field position, then attacking inside the opposition half. Experts will tell you it is how to win games; test match rugby is built on field position and set pieces.

To those going along to see a replay of the days of Roff, Gregan, Larkham and so on, it can be a disappointment. Perhaps that is one reason why people are not going to games.

Some people say the cost of Brumbies’ and Raiders’ games is too expensive for families battling to make ends meet and the cheaper option is to stay at home and watch it on pay television. Is that just an excuse? If the cost of tickets and food at the stadium was less expensive would you go?

The recent Monday night game between the Raiders and the Broncos would normally attract more than 15,000, with the Raiders in the top eight and going for nine home wins in a row. Instead, it attracted just over 10,000 despite extensive promotion.

As it turned out, the game was the most watched program across all pay TV networks. It is the same with the Brumbies.

Pay TV is surely having a major impact on crowd numbers, but it wasn’t such a factor 10 years ago when the Brumbies were attracting big numbers to their games.

The scheduling of night games is obviously done by somebody outside Canberra. Perhaps it’s time for some of those officials to sit in the bleachers during a cold night in winter at Canberra Stadium.

The Brumbies also have a longer season now that stretches well into winter, which wasn’t the case before.

Another aspect that needs to be looked at is the promotion for both codes. It is not just promotion in the media, which I have spoken about in the past, but it is schools and shopping centres, it is attendance at functions and working with charities. Both codes do plenty, but there is an obvious need to do more.


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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster


  1. By far and away the thing I hear is the pure cost… People just dont have $150-200 spare to go to game with their kids, you can get a whole season of foxtel for the price it would cost to attend 2 or 3 games. Not sure about the Brumbies but unless the Raiders are well on top there is very little atmosphere becuase of the small crouds and entensive delays between games…..

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