I noticed yesterday that the CEO of the Parramatta Eels rugby league team, Paul Osborne, dismissed the new Western Sydney AFL team as being a threat by saying,
‘I am not particularly worried by it… It’s a pretty ordinary game and we’ve got a much better product.’
He went on to say,
‘I am not too concerned as I am sure they will come back when they see how boring it is. They are quite intelligent in Western Sydney.’
Ha ha ha. Don’t make me laugh. Rugby league is only strong in NSW and Queensland whilst Aussie rules is strong not just in Melbourne but in Adelaide and Perth, both the Swans and Brisbane Lions are very strong, whilst Tasmania have been begging the AFL to grant them a franchise for a dozen years or more. The NRL has just two non-NSW or QLD teams, one from New Zealand and the Melbourne Storm. (I know technically Canberra is in the ACT but in reality it is part of NSW) The Adelaide Rams rugby league team lasted just two seasons, and although they had attendance figures that put most Sydney rugby league clubs to shame, Rupert Murdoch decided that they could not compete with the AFL’s Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide Power.
The Storm have been a roaring success in Melbourne but it is still just a handful of regular supporters who attend every match. An average of 12,474 spectators to their home games in 2008, whilst the Parramatta Eels attracted 16,478 spectators to their home games in 2005 (the latest figure I could find). An average of 16,466 people attended NRL games in 2009. In contrast 37,776 people attended each AFL game, with Port Adelaide having the lowest average attendances every week at 25,589. The Sydney Swans attracted an average crowd of 30,857 spectators to their games in 2009, with 2008 seeing an average crowd of 31,821 at Swans games. In 2005 an average of 37,000 people attended Swans games. In 2008 AFL had 1,784,000 MORE free-to-air TV viewers in the capital cities each week than the NRL. If Aussie rules was such a boring game and rugby league so superior wouldn’t it make sense that more people would go to or watch the games and that it would have penetrated into more states of Australia? Since around twice as many people attend Swans AFL games than those of these two NRL teams I reckon there should be a lot of concern. If Paul Osborne isn’t worried now he should be.