Thursday, April 5, 2012

NZ Super Rugby compared to Australia

I've attended two Melbourne Rebels games now.  Both at AAMI park.

The stadium itself is immaculate.  It has lots of exits, so it's easy to find your way to your seat, and easy to make quick pitstops and food stops without missing too much action.  Lots of giveways on game day, and players signing in tents outside.  Public transport is right on hand - the stadium is at Richmond station. 

I'm trying to compare them to New Zealand.  When I see games on TV from NZ, it looks like the fizzle is gone.  What's different in Melbourne?

Well, for a start there's a cheer squad - the "Rebel Army" that sit behind the goal posts, bang drums and wave flags.  They are a bit more than that, as they organise a lot of fan events, including at the official Rebels pub and fan page.  The players seem to really appreciate it, and I must say they are a lot of fun to sit with.  I haven't seen anything similar in NZ stadiums.

For the Rebels, you can purchase season passes, which range from corporate type membership, to weekly or even 3-game passes.  There is even a membership for out-of-towners, which still gives you access to lots of merchandise and team e-mails.  I really think that this is missing for the Hurricanes and even the All Blacks.  How many All Blacks supporters live internationally?  Lots!  Why not have a club which costs $50 annually, and gets you access to merchandise and priority bookings.  I think this is a lost opportunity.  It especially saddens me when you hear about the financial difficulties of NZ Unions.  I'd really like to support the Manawatu Turbos, but there really isn't a way to do it.

The only major downside for Melbourne has been the scheduling, with all home games last season on Friday nights.  This year 5 games out of 8 are on Friday nights.  There was one sunday afternoon game, which was great for families.  I must say that the Hurricanes aren't much better.  They are struggling for attendance in Wellington, and yet have decided to only host one game out of the capital this season, in New Plymouth.  Palmerston North and Napier don't get a visit, which is poor. 

New Zealanders seem to be saturated with Rugby, and it is showing in the population's indifference.  Melbourne has a Rugby watching population maybe one hundredth of NZ, but yet they are embracing their team wholeheartedly.  New Zealand could learn a lot about both event management and fan relations.

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