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All the talk this week has been around attendances and the lack thereof. So far this year, 747,246 people have attended the games from the first 6 rounds. In 2013, all records were broken by some 40 odd thousand over the same period. Crowds were getting bigger and more of the same was expected this year.
Instead what has transpired is quite the opposite. A whopping 135,568 less people have attended games this year compared to the same time last year. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2006 to find a year whose crowds over the first 6 rounds were less than those in 2014. But in 2006, there were only 7 games per week, not 8 like today.
The last time crowds were this low for a season comprising of 8 games per round over the opening 6 rounds was back in 1999, a short time after the Superleague war brought the game to its knees.
The figures also show that it's not just one or two bad weeks that has dragged the number down, it's been an issue since Round 1.
Round 1, 2014 - 126,590 - The worst opening round attendance since 2003 (123,405 in 7 games)
Round 2, 2014 - 137,805 - The lowest Round 2 attendance of the past 3 years
Round 4, 2014 - 118,112 - The lowest Round 4 attendance since 2006 (103,791 in 7 games)
Round 6, 2014 - 107,821 - The lowest Round 6 attendance since 2007 (98,127 in 6 games)
First 6 Rounds total attendance:
2014: 747,246 (48 games)
2013: 882,814 (48 games)
2012: 836,111 (48 games)
2011: 838,732 (48 games)
2010: 846,273 (48 games)
2009: 841,476 (48 games)
2008: 857,869 (48 games)
2007: 838,649 (46 games)
2006: 732,277 (42 games)
With club memberships breaking the record set last year at the same time, one can only wonder why crowd figures are going in the opposite direction.
The game is faster, more open and exciting this year compared to past seasons. The results are more inconsistent. The game cannot be considered as boring by any means at all in 2014. The weather cannot be used as an excuse. It's a winter sport. Rain happens.
Perhaps members aren't going to games? Or maybe non-members aren't going because of the cost of tickets? Is it scheduling?
Whatever the reason, the NRL needs to work out if they need to start making some changes to rectify this issue, sooner rather than later.