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
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.
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.