Glen Ella thinks rugby is in trouble too

Glen Ella’s Tweet during the Test against Argentina speaks volumes…

While the Wallabies got away with a win on the field, what was happening around the periphery can not be overlooked for the clear signal of a sporting code in dire straits long before this Australian Rugby legend called it on twitter.

Waratahs Semi Final at Allianz in 2014
Good times – I caught Glen Ella at the Waratahs semi-final which preceded the Super 15 title match in front of 61,823 fans at ANZ stadium.

Glen Ella is not one to mince words and he is certainly not an attention seeker either so if he is saying this then he believes it.

Now the rankings hold Australia as top tier team playing at home while Argentina are not in the top 10 IRB ranked sides (as time of writing they are at 12th but I suspect this will move upward soon) with a narrow victory and a rugby world cup is definitely a worry but I want to talk about something I find more troubling still.

The steady decline of the code in Australia over the last decade and this is not just about losing the Bledisloe to the All Blacks for 12 years straight since 2003.

Those familiar with my Rugby Panel Forum from last Friday would remember the quote “Rugby is in trouble. Big Trouble ” and while the article we were discussing then was focussed on Refereeing, I do not believe this is why people are not going to the games like they used to either.

In our preview of this match on Rugby Panel both John and I highlighted the importance of the scrum in this match and having highlighted that at least two penalties for collapsing the scrum were awarded to the Pumas against the All Blacks was an ominous sign.

How we measured up would be critical and little did I know a potential draw would hinge on just that type of contest.

The last few minutes of the Test and ‘that scrum’ that could have seen the Pumas draw with the Wallabies at home (just as the IRB 1st ranked All Blacks did I might add) asking questions that never got answered and I for one would have loved to see answered though the strict letter of the rules says the right decision was made.

Only 14,281 watched on for this ‘International’ on the Gold Coast and the ARU recorded a new low in crowd attendance which had everyone asking questions not just Glen Ella.

Commentators and fans were left wanting and this plus a multitude of other reasons were cited as to why the crowd attendance was so woeful but I think this traces back long before this match and I am talking years not weeks.

Some might think they moved it to the Gold Coast because the ARU did not want to take the NRL September finals head on but this is not the reason either. Even NRL commentators were unhappy with their crowd attendances in the major cities with the Melbourne and Sydney finals well down on expectations suggesting a wider trend.

Now it is here I believe most commentators including the ARU miss the point on why the fans have gone missing.

It is not the quality of the sport, professionalism is seeing to that, it is the experience at the stadium that is at primary fault. Look at the offering.

Cash incentives and long-term contracts to hold matches at ANZ stadium that are televised to empty seats a-plenty only reinforces that people are not interested which is simply not true. Generational change sees a more discerning spectator that won’t tolerate a match day experiences that detracts from their enjoyment and they need to be won over.

The sad fact is that many (myself included) would far prefer to watch from home where there are no travel time, parking nightmares, excessive prices, or queues for the toilets or food and the sporting event has to be very compelling to overcome all of these before the first whistle even sounds.

Now I will get off the couch for a Live Waratah match which is ironic because Waratah supporters are often cast as fair-weather fans. It is here that I point out that the Super 15 final at Stadium Australia posted a new record crowd of 61,823 to win against the Crusaders thank you very much so this proves the interest is out there.

You need that tribal mentality.

So many people I knew did not want to miss out having supported for so long and this has a domino effect. It reminded me of the Western Sydney Warriors Soccer supporters that seem to achieve this same feel so effortlessly. I found myself unconsciously videoing  the crowd before the match and when I realised what I was doing I quickly looked around to see if anyone saw me to find that I was not the only one.

“For too long, Australian sport has relied solely on the playing spectacle being enough in of itself to get people out to live matches but nowadays with widescreen televisions and people having spent all their disposal income doing up their homes , they need to start looking at the match day experience for the fans starting from the time they set out for the ground to the time they walk back in their front door.”

If we spend more time looking at this then I think the players will be able to concentrate on the game without being constantly asked make people forget about shortcomings in other aspects of the event.

I think it was put best by Sam Shepherd when he spoke of

“..those Fine Grain elements that each individually probably does not mean that much but you add about 50 or 60 of them they define your enjoyment.”

Only then may we see fans return in numbers and with a rugby world cup just around the corner it could be the difference in close finishes given the pool we are in. I am sure the British fans will be there and vocal. It would be great if we turned up too.

On a lighter and more positive note, It appears the Wallabies got my memo from a few months back to all grow beards which was pleasing to see….

Were their beards the difference?  I guess we will never know, just as we will never know if Argentina would have pushed over for draw.

 Tweetables:

Rugby is in trouble says Glen Ella – [Tweet This]

Why only 14,281 attended the Gold Coast Rugby Test  – [Tweet This]

Why Match Day experiences are more than the match – [Tweet This]

 

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