Off the Wall

As a stay at home Brisbane-based fan, the coming weekend is easily the best weekend of the year sports-viewing wise.


Grand final day is a highlight but it is not a weekend event. The opening round of the premiership ends a five month viewing drought, and usually produces some of the most interesting football of the season, because of the way the first round is structured.


I have just been planning my weekend viewing - and I have worked out that by Monday night - barring interruptions - I can fit in five games live on Nine and Fox Sports, and maybe a delayed showing or two.


Is it any wonder that attendance numbers, when taken over a period of years, are at best flat if not in decline?


The home viewer with Foxtel is really a spoilt commodity, and long may it remain so.


And I can pick up scores on the Rabbitohs v Roosters match tomorrow night by linking in to the 2GB coverage on the internet.


With the coverage available to the stay at home fan, is it any wonder our television ratings trounce those of the AFL, especially on pay television, whereas attendance numbers struggle to reach half what the AFL records each weekend.


But there are other reasons why I am a part of the home viewing fan club.


Attending games at major stadiums, such as Suncorp, is significantly less enjoyable than it was "in the good old days".


There will be a 45,000 plus crowd for the Broncos v Cowboys game - an extraordinary turnout given that neither side exactly inspired enthusiasm in 2010.


A packed stadium means the average fan takes pot luck when it comes to who you are seating near. I had two bad experiences last season - in one a drunk sitting behind me tipped beer down my back...an accident but that does not make it more convenient. In the second another drunk in our row went to the bar SIX times in two hours to replenish beer stocks, which everyone in the row had to stand up a dozen times to let him out and back in.


If you want food then it's a long queue for pre-heated, expensive garbage (oh for the good old days when you could get a hot pie with or without peas, a packet of hot, if greasy chips, and a can of coke at a price the working man could afford or a can of XXXX).


I can afford to pay the mark ups, but it must be a real problem for dad, mum and three kids struggling with ever increasing costs in their daily lives.


And if you are like me and can't stand queues forget public transport, or going to the men's at half time!


When I think about the costs, and the challenges, associated with attending a game at a major stadium with the house full sign up, my point earlier this week that the game's fans are a resilient lot is surely reinforced!


Resilient, and extraordinarily tolerant!


The game needs fans who attend games and fans who watch on television. Television numbers are rising but when you chisel down through the attendance numbers the story is nowhere near as positive as it is portrayed...not over the whole season, and not when a couple of standouts (such as the Broncos at Suncorp) are taken into account.


When the next television rights deal is bedded down, the NRL needs to have a good hard look at the cost of going to the football.


While most clubs now offer special deals, such as family group tickets, the game's administrators have to be vigilant to ensure the game remains affordable for working families.


Just another issue to add to the pile already confronting the independent commission - if we ever get one!

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