It’s so easy to watch rugby on TV. So when people are ditching that (Super Rugby TV numbers have dropped 30%, and audience share on SuperSport has dropped 22%), you know you have an issue.
To head to the stadium perhaps? Clearly not given the recent attendance figures.
Last week I wrote about a bleeding pro product, but the product is two-fold. The actual Super Rugby structure is one part, and seems to be being addressed using consultants. The other product related thing we simply have to improve here in South Africa, though, is the match-day experience.
When last did we see an interesting or innovative activation at a stadium in SA?
In an article on Sport24 last week, two unnamed CEOs of local Super Rugby franchises blamed poor stadium numbers on the economy, big name players playing overseas, transformation objectives, the simpler and cheaper TV experience, the amount of rugby and the tournament structure.
“Even inviting musicians to perform after matches does not really work anymore,” complained one.
Not even a 'blerrie' musician! Blame, blame, blame... have these CEOs given up before trying anything?
We can’t just dish up the same muck and hope for people to come!
How sensational was the support from locals for the Chiefs v Crusaders game that was played in Fiji? Now that is different, and innovative!
Generally, support at New Zealand derbies has been good. A culture thing for sure, also due to the amazing rugby they play, but also because they play in smaller stadia!
In South African we have Soccer City which has a capacity of 95 000, Ellis Park - 63 000, Kings Park, Loftus Versfeld, Newlands and NMB Stadium - 50 000, and the Free State Stadium - 41 000.
Eden Park in Auckland, the biggest stadium in New Zealand, has a capacity of 50 000, yet plenty of the Blues games are played at the nearby QBE in Albany, which has a capacity of just 25 000. The Cake Tin in Wellington can take 36 500, while Forsyth Barr is a 30 000 seater.
AAMI Park, where the seven-time champions Crusaders play their rugby, can only take 18 000 people. A bit like the Stormers playing at the Danie Craven stadium in Stellenbosch which has a capacity of 16 000!
Most UK premiership stadia have capacities of less than 25 000. It creates a community type vibe that you just cannot hope to achieve in a mostly empty cavern. Something for us to ponder in SA?
On the cards should also be Wi-Fi enabling the stadia so as to not only enable picture sharing on social media, but active encouragement of it. Or just being able to order an Uber home! Allowing people to pre-order their food and drink and have it delivered to their seats. Making getting to and from stadiums safer and easier. Putting in bigger and better placed seats to give fans more space (yes, I am a fat bastard, and yes I am biased). Chopping out seats with a crap view and putting in mini restaurants/beer gardens or supervised kids areas. Having screens that are bigger than those in people’s lounges, with smaller screen clipped onto the back of them like they do at Twickenham - for those sitting behind the screen. New and novel crowd interaction activations offering fun incentives like first to Tweet XX pic wins a trip to the changing room. TV angles and cameras exclusive to the stadium. And how about bringing back good old fashioned curtain raisers that don’t end a week before the main game starts?
Yes we need a better structured Super Rugby tournament that people will hopefully care about again. But we also need a vastly improved match-day experience.
But it’s all going to cost money! Yes, money that you will make back through getting more people to the venue going forward. Anyone hear the one about franchise privatisation?
Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.