#NRL180: A look at the Amazing (membership) Race plus Round 2 Takeaway Menu, by @ItsMitchell180

By @ItsMitchell180

The NRL finally has a goal, and it’s about growing the revenue and the crowds. Ultimately, that’s all linked to increasing memberships.

They want crowds to average 20,000 by 2017 — which is doable, but the short term pain to get there is likely to involve having more games at ANZ stadium. In wanting bigger crowds you need bigger membership numbers, and the NRL has revealed their goal of 400,000 memberships by 2017. That’s an average of 25,000 members per club at its current 16.

Or a 23,529 if expansion were to happen (Pirates, please).

While membership numbers have increased significantly since 2008 (when the NRL and clubs starting to take them seriously) ,the 400 000 goal is a long way off…at this stage.

Looking at the table below (correct as of March 14) Souths are over the average needed and the Broncos are closing in. The rest, while they have decent numbers, will need to increase significantly if the NRL is to meet that ambitious target:


At look at each club and their numbers

The Brilliant

Souths: 28,169. I know its sacrilege to use “great” and “Souths” in same article on 26rounds, but I’m afraid they are.  If any club has the potential to reach the high 30K even 40K number, it’s Souths.

[They’re only 12,000 pet memberships away!” — JJ.]

Broncos: 22,644. The club’s numbers have picked up in the past few months after hovering around 15k for a while. In a one-team town you’d expect them to do well, but they are the perfect example of the difference in “membership culture between the AFL and NRL. While Broncos have a higher average crowd figure, the Lions would have more members. But the Broncos are now beginning to buck that trend.

Eels: 14,386. First, lower that eyebrow: this isn’t a typo. For a team that has won back-to-back spoons and gone through more coaches than John Farnham has had comebacks, the Parra faithful are still that: faithful. They do have a big supporter base, but might be hamstrung playing in a stadium with a capacity of just over 20,000. If they are to take it to the next level, dare I suggest a move to Homebush?

The Good… but could be better. 

Dragons: 15,981. They have a massive supporter base stretching from Sydney to the south coast, so the numbers — in comparison with the lower numbers at the Eels — are good without being brilliant. They are very much in the same boat as the Eels in that if they are to go to the next level, more games at a bigger stadium are needed. Kogarah and WIN Stadium are just too small.

Knights: 14,939. As seen by the growth in recent weeks the Knights are probably at their limit, but they are promising.

Roosters: 14,093. A post-premiership surge has taken the Roosters past the Storm and the Bulldogs in recent weeks. Roosters supporters cop it more than most, but the test will be if they renew next season.

Bulldogs: 13,426. Considering they had something like 3,000 back in 2008, they have come a long way. Playing out of ANZ will give them the advantage to reach the 25 000 target, especially with a latent large supporter base.

Storm: 12,292. There’s been a steady incline in membership takeup since 2010. They’ve had 16 years in the game now and are entrenched in the sporting landscape though, so more work needs to be done.

Cowboys: 10,892. Like the Knights, this seems to be their limit although they have a lot of intestate fans who find it hard to commit to a full membership.

Sea Eagles: 10,522. Playing out of Brookie will hinder the numbers, but if they are relocated to the SFS numbers would decline. They need an expansion of Brookie to increase these numbers.

Panthers: 10,036. It’s good news that they’ve been able to crack 10,000 for the first time, but it’s too early to call if these numbers are likely to increase.

The Bad.

Titans: 7743. They had visions of 15,000 when they first entered the competition but it’s been tough going since. Reaching 10,000 would be a huge milestone.

Warriors: 7630. Their numbers are up and down almost on a yearly basis, much like their team is game to game.

Raiders: 7193. Neither here nor there.

Wests Tigers: 6977. Board troubles and fans arguing over the colour on the jerseys is reflected in the numbers. They have a big supporter base but it has never translated into members. They have a massive job ahead of them in the next three years.

Sharks: 6940. They had over 10,000 last year… the cloud of ASADA and a membership price increase might have hindered the numbers this year so far.


I love the fact the NRL has ambitions, but to want 400,000 members within three years I feel is out of reach. A 20,000 average for the 16 teams would achieve a total of 320,000 — which in rugby league terms is nothing to sneeze at.

Crowds-wise 20,000 is definitely achievable, but membership-wise with many Sydney clubs playing out of suburban grounds the ultimate “bang for the buck” will keep some from buying.

Round 2 Takeaways


27 responses to “#NRL180: A look at the Amazing (membership) Race plus Round 2 Takeaway Menu, by @ItsMitchell180

  1. Thanks for collating those figures. An enjoyable and useful read.

    Some of those ‘bad’ figures are surprising. For instance, I’d have expected the Raiders’ successful history to have more buy-in from fans. If they were closer to Sydney they would be right up there in relocation discussions. A poor effort, Canberrans.

    I can’t help but think membership numbers and crowds are not as related as the NRL believes – there are many, MANY more factors that bring crowds to a game, and membership, in my opinion, is a minor and unreliable one.

    It’s a bit like a firm realizing their best salesman has the highest entertainment budget, and therefore drawing a conclusion that big lunches are directly responsible for his success. But when the team’s entertainment budget is increased, they are surprised to learn that it was detrimental to team performance.

    Membership might indicate a fan is more likely to go to a game, but there is no reliable relationship as the data show. The NRL would be better advised to focus on those elements of spectator comfort and enjoyment that heighten the game-day experience.

    Cost is one of those things, and that applies once inside the stadium as well, where the quality and variety of food and drink is abysmal, while being expensive. A trip to the kiosk seriously makes you feel violated. That’s easy to change, so best get on with it.

    There are so many others, but the point is equating memberships to crowds (by the NRL) is almost certainly focussing on the wrong metric.

    Over & out,

    The Dr


    • Ahh, the doc. Always a pleasure reading your columns.

      the only thing memberships do is provide a financial base that is guaranteed — plus membership doesn’t suffer from the same “cut” that a gate or pre-paid ticketek ticket recieves, so the yield (to quote Richo) is quite high despite the lower pricing.

      But more can be done in-stadium, and i totally agree. I’m sick of microwaved pies and shitty beer. Go to a Sydney Kings game and you get a selection of beer — light, mid-strentgh, low-carb — and the food is reasonably priced. But stadiums across the whole need a food upgrade. Domino’s is a nice try at Allianz, but it aint enough — especially at $9 a pop or whatever they are for a pizza the size of what would amount to a slice in the actual restaurant.

      Never understood the price hikes there for such shit quality food — the staff aren’t paid well, so I guess they’ve just followed the airport model. “They’re here, they’re trapped…”


    • Excellent points Doc. Memberships and season ticket numbers would be an interesting comparison. No doubt big memberships don’t = guarantee crowds ie: Souths in round 1…Perhaps I read the NRL wrong, 20k crowds average and 25k memberships I automatically assume they are linked.


      • Ya know, the responsibility is also on each & every club to provide a reason to join OVER AND ABOVE merely supporting the team.

        That little digression pre-gression??) is probably worth
        Following up in more detail. The point I really wanted to make relates to correlation and causation. Whether two things coexist is one thing. Often, 2 variables are impacted similarly ny a simgle event or factor.

        Whether one varianle causes another is harder to work out. Sometimes the causation can run in different directions at different times (usually in concert with another set of factors).

        But mistakes in the relationship are either:

        – intentional (say, political parties or agenda-driven commentators);

        – accidental (errors made in good faith … Sometimes it can be difficult! Even Though there are statistical methods to judge these things, sometimes te data sample is too small);

        – born of pure laziness (oh, these two lines on a chart look similar, therefore … Bla bla bla … X affects y, my cat is a dog…)

        I think the NRL’s mistake is to draw an inference of substantial strength from memberships to crowds.

        The Dr days “Nah-ah”


    • So easy — my old tuckshop at school had more variety at the till than the garbage they “offer” at most stadiums


  2. I’ve asked AFL fans before ‘why are you a member’ and 90% their answer is ‘to support my club’
    Looking at all the afl clubs in ‘nrl’ territory their fans just do it better, whether its a culture thing or more hardcore support or they want their club to survive more, I’m not sure.


  3. I agree NRL fans are just not getting the whole “supporting your club” idea of membership compared to AFL fans. There are also fans who just don’t get the benefits of being a member, a friend of mine who goes to every home game complains year on year about how high tickets are yet never buys a membership that would save him hundreds of dollars…i don’t get it,

    I thought only souths fans were dumb.
    The numbers are getting better but still are way off what they should be, we should have at least 16 000 after that amazing GF win last year. The Broncos should have 30 000 at least and the Knights 20 000.

    Hopefully over time NRL fans will realise that memberships help your club survive and that they also save money by becoming one.


    • yeah i think if people started to realise it froma financial sense over the season, rather than just a massive lump sum, they’ve snap them up.

      For instance, lets take the Bronze membership. Its $150 bucks and it looks like they have some reserved seating, but mostly its a GA ticket. That same ticket, for one game at the gate, is 30 bucks.

      So if you plan to go to five games all up you’ve made your money back. It’s $12.41 a game — can’t beat that really.


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