Dwindling bums on seats

August 4, 2013
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So the Lions are back? One more year of empty seats in Doornfontein? At least the Kings got that right.

Like every other year, the Stormers once again had by far the biggest home attendance of their games – even though it’s almost 5,000 down from 2012. The Stormers (33,545) is followed by the Reds 931,837) with the Kings in third place at 31,783 – just more than double the average attendance the Lions had in 2012.

Strangely enough, given their rather average season, the Stormers were involved in 5 of the 10 games with the biggest TV audiences.

What is very clear, is that attendance figures are falling amidst claims that the TV figures keeps on rising. The Cheetahs enjoyed by far their best season in history, yet the bums on seats only increased by approximately 1,500 (19,986 as opposed to 17,364 in 2012).

“More people are watching S15 on TV. They watch several games on one day and unfortunately don’t turn out to watch their own team,” said Harold Verster of the Bloemfontein franchise.

Rob Wagner (WP) says there are several factors involved, like the series format, the duration, the fact that you don’t play all the teams and the June test window.

“It is possible not to play the Reds or the Crusaders, which can have a big impcat. Apart from playing good rugby, you must also present the extras if you want live attendance to be the fan’s first choice.”

[RW: I guess standing in a queue for 15 minutes to empty your bladder is not really one of the Newlands drawcards.]

Barend van Graan (Blue Bulls) points out that the games against the Stormers (44,272), Sharks (48,365) and Cheetahs (32,820) had good crowds.

“We don’t receive the same support when the Down Under teams play. We also had games over long weekends and in schools holidays, which affects the attendances.”

(Ranking and attendance figures for 2012 in brackets)

1. (1) Stormers 33,545 (-4,578)
2. (2) Reds 31,837 (-862)
3. (-) Kings 31,783 (–)
4. (3) Bulls 29,134 (-2649)
5. (8) Blues 20,354 (+4,424)
6. (6) Cheetahs 19,986 (+2,622)
7. (4) Sharks 19,491 (-4,125)
8. (5) Waratahs 17,036 (-3,610)
9. (7) Crusaders 14,908 (-1,572)
10. (14) Brumbies 14,290 (+354)
11. (12) Chiefs 14,081 (-714)
12. (10) Highlanders 13,334 (-2,532)
13.(15) Force 12,240 (-1,169)
14.(12) Rebels 11,947 (-2,104)
15. (13) Hurricanes 10,934 (-3,045)

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  1. avatar Boertjie says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Maybe Bryce and Out Wide can shed some light
    on the poor attendances Down Under?

    Even the Crusaders and the Chiefs are in the
    bottom half, despite brilliant seasons.

    And one would have expected more enthusiasm
    for the Brumbies.

    Could it be that evening games – to suit the
    SA viewers – is the reason?
    Yet in SA evening games remain very popular . . .

  2. avatar Timeo says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    SA teams all in the top half of the log.

    Yet they schedule 4 of the 5 “big draw-card” play-off games outside of the biggest rugby market. Play the final between market 11th and 10th.

    SupeRugby must take the cake for being the most irrationally (read stupidly) organized sports league format.

    Another reason why SA should drop the NZAR. They are a financial millstone around the neck.

  3. avatar Boertjie says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Super 12 was the best format.
    This can still be a very good competitition
    it they run it over two sections with
    play-offs between the top two in each
    As it is every team does not play every
    other team.
    The S15 has become one boring, drawn out
    competition claiming the careers of too
    many players.

    The solution is obvious to all except
    the SANZAR bosses.

  4. avatar Aldo says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I agree somewhat Boertjie. These last two seasons I couldnt give a ratsass about games where the Bulls dont play, only watched it in passing. Before, I used to watch each and every game. The season has just become so long and drawn out, that I could not care less about games played between overseas teams. And rarely watched SA derbies.

    The whole super format needs a rehaul. A do over of sorts. I still think going back to super 12 is the best answer, or even better, the super ten. We then play our cc in February with the top 3 teams going to super rugby and an invitational side from Argentinia. This will also leave space for the June internationals as well as TRC. Less rugby, more bums in seats. But then superrugby has become the goose that laid the golden egg for tv bosses. Someone needs to tell them that more isnt allways better.

  5. avatar Timeo says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    If my calculations are correct:

    Total Average attendance: 285900
    SA: 124934: 44%
    Aus: 87353: 31%
    NZ: 73611: 25%

    Since only the SA games are played in convenient European time-slots, the TV viewership numbers are probably even more lopsided towards SA based games.

    If SR was arranged around sound business principles where the product follows the market, the S15 teams for each country would be:
    SA: 6 teams, Aus: 5, NZ: 4.
    S14: 6, 4, and 4
    S12: 5, 4, 3

    If there are 5 play-off games, between 2 and 3 should be played in South Africa.

  6. avatar Boertjie says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 7:24 pm


    Yes, but now they tell us attendances are
    not important – a drop in the money basket.
    What count is VIEWERS.
    My problem with that is that it’s not a very
    accurate figure – unlike feet through turnstiles.
    And those people are forced to see the adds
    around the stadium.

    Question: How many viewers actually see the ads
    on TV? Count me out – I have the sound off, go to
    the loo, make coffee, pour a dop, catch up on my
    e-mails and blog comments for those 12 minutes.
    Ditto for the preambles and stuff after the game
    before Naas and co spits their wisdom.

  7. avatar Timeo says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 7:45 pm


    TV money gets lots of attention because it comes in big chunks guaranteed for several years. To the sport it’s “easy money”. You have nothing to do past the contract negotiations.
    Selling ads and subscriptions are the networks’ problems.

    But in between contract periods, the only (best) way for a team to increase revenue is to concentrate on match-day sales. Full stadiums look much better on TV also.

  8. avatar Craven says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    And now Aus and NZ want even more derbies between their teams, meaning more games where tv numbers will be down. Oh boy.

  9. avatar Boertjie says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 8:15 pm


    Like having three tests vs the All Blacks
    It has zero of the value of the old long
    anticipated series.

  10. avatar Timeo says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Here is a breakdown for the top football (soccer) teams.

    TV money represents 30-40% of income for most teams.

    The breakdown for USA sports are here:

    For the NFL it’s about 45%
    Baseball: 21%
    Basketball: 18%
    Hockey: 6%
    Soccer: 9%

  11. avatar Boertjie says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 9:14 pm


    And sponsorships? The logos and stuff
    all over their gear?

  12. avatar biltongbek says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Attendance figures may not be important to SANZAR, but I bet you for the Franchises they must be.

    If the Stormers who had 260 000 spectators during the season sold their tickets at an average of R80 they made in excess of R20 million on ticket sales, not exactly chump chump change.

  13. avatar Timeo says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 11:30 pm


    Sorry I didn’t post the first link.


    I think “commercial” denotes sponsorships and merchandize.

    For Man. United it’s roughly 40/30/30.

  14. avatar Timeo says:
    August 4th, 2013 at 11:59 pm


    American sports don’t do much logos on uniforms. They do, do a fair bit of commercialization inside the stadium. Innings changes at baseball or half-time shows always come with a brought to you by: Coca Cola, Delta Airlines or some such.

    For many people a trip to a baseball game is more about participation in a cultural ritual.

    The other night we had a school choir from Uganda sing the Star Spangled Banner at our baseball game. Imagine kids from Africa in their very African accents singing:

    Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

    I’m not sure what my fellow Americans thought of it, but for myself, who aspires to be a citizen of the world it was specially poignant.

    The rest of the night there was a lot of jeering, cheering, dancing, hugging and tomahawk chops on musical and announcer ques. The game was a show and all who attended were participants in it.

  15. avatar Mug Punters Organisation of South Africa says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Premium advertising space sold on way over inflated figures. How do you know who is watching what and how many? NSA maybe?

    It was pretty shocking to see the dismal figures in NZ. I really thought the Lions had big open spaces but the NZ teams support was piss poor.

    The working class are in a recession world wide and have much less disposable income. Please note stock markets going up does not reflect the real economics on the ground.

  16. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 7:51 am


    Yep not too mention their Food & Beverage profits (Rebels games they make more there than gate-takings excluding boxes)…

  17. avatar Craven says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 8:32 am

    According to the figures, of the 20 most watched Super Rugby games this year, 14 were local derbies, including the Top 3. Every game involved a South African side, while only six were games against either New Zealand or Australia opposition. Amazingly, only two of those six games were against Kiwi sides, in total SA brings in 67% of the viewership numbers, and yet the $400million broadcasting pie is split equally threeways.

    How fair is that?

  18. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 8:41 am


    “And now Aus and NZ want even more derbies”

    No they do not… they were content with the S15 wanting a few tweaks/refinements… it is SARU pushing the for more teams not the other way around…

  19. avatar Craven says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Nope Bryce, someone mentioned they want more derbies as that is the games where they get to get more folks into their stadiums.

    Anyway, if it is true that they are happy with the current format, that is your problem right there. How anyone can think the current format is working from a player point of view, team point of view and lastly keeping folks interested, is beyond me.

    Seriously, more folks attended and watched a promotion/relegation game in SA than the Superugby final. If that does not indicate a MASSIVE problem with the format, then nothing will convince the “wise” men in Australasia.

  20. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 10:14 am


    Er mate… they charged $2 a ticket for the game yep $2!

  21. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 10:19 am


    catch 22 – what is better an “empty” stadium with 10k supporters at $20 or an almost full stadium with 50k @ $2 dollars a ticket.
    Empty = $200k & bad publicity
    Full with atmosphere = $100K & Good publicity

  22. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 10:20 am


    this argument however wins it:
    10k supporters can only buy so much food and drink, 50K buy 5 times more ;-)

  23. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 10:47 am


    Haha nice try mate… general admin tickets here start at $25 and the average spend including more popular reserve seating which accounts for a minimum of 50% of punters average $60plus.

    F$B outlets at EP wouldn’t even be able to dream of coping with every one of 60k punters in 5hrs let alone 90mins and that’s with a drastic increase in staff…

    :Rule 9:

  24. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 11:25 am


    WTF are you on about? We were talking about the Lions v Kings game and my point being that if they charge 200Rand a ticket they might get 10K in the stadium but asking 20Rand a ticket they almost fill it.

    Which is better?
    IMO a full stadium!

  25. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 2:27 pm


    Er we were not… the conversation started with Craven comparing 60K punters attending a one-off freakshow @ $2 a ticket (in a city of 4.5 million) to a Super Rugby final with 25k @ $25-$90 a ticket (in a city of 450k)…

    Both EP and Waikato stadium would be bankrupt in half a season @ $2 a Super Rugby game.

  26. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Lions average attendance for Super XV 2012 was 23,714.

  27. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 2:30 pm


    Super final was a sell-out at maximum price… Craven just being emo…

  28. avatar out wide says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Interesting reading some of the comments here, but there does seem to be a degree of misinformation going on. For instance the idea that tv audiences outside of SANZAR countries are ALL in Europe and therefore SA is in the “right” timezone. This ignores the fact that SANZAR sells tv rights to SE Asian countries like Japan (NZST – 3hrs), Singapore and Malaysia (NZST – 4hrs) plus places like Dubai. All very marketable as I experienced in Singapore where the beers were flowing at an expat mate’s place at 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon while we watched the Stormers playing in NZ. None of the mob there bothered to get up at 1am to watch the 7:30 pm game out of SA though.

  29. avatar out wide says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    @ Boertjie @ 3:29pm – you asked about reasons for low attendance at games Downunder despite top of the ladder performances by sides like the Chiefs, Crusaders and Brumbies.

    Heading the list of reasons would be relatively smaller markets (Cape Town has about 10 times the population of either Christchurch or Hamilton). The generally wealthier average kiwi might have a much larger discretionary budget to spend on things like a night at rugby but remember that there is greater competition for their bucks and tv time from soccer, basketball and woman’s netball and other codes such as rugby league and in OZ, Australian rules footy.

    As you suggested the time games are played downunder is also a problem. Most games (except for the odd Sunday afternoon game) are played at night for the benefit of SA audiences and families would rather go to the afternoon ITM Cup games (NZ Currie Cup) than drag young kids out for a late night out.

    A further issue that keeps audiences at home watching the games on their TV’s is something Bryce touched on, the high cost of eats and drinks at the game. Fathers regularly complain that a family of 5 can cost $100 in ticketing and then another $100 for eats and drinks. Personally, I ration myself to 2 x 200ml beers at the game which at $7 each amounts to well over R100. I could get well oiled on that at the bar under the South Stand at Newlands!

  30. avatar Boertjie says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 3:12 pm


    Not according to my source.
    Less than half the Kings had.

  31. avatar Craven says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Bryce, you can give tickets away for free, if people do not want to watch what you dish up, you won’t fill your stadium, easy isn’t it?

    But, coming back to the point I tried to make (that you very cleverly side stepped, I might add) is that Superugby in its current format is flawed.

    It seems you (and Aus/NZ administrators) do not agree with my statement? Why do you think we are onto such a winner with this format?

  32. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 3:38 pm


    Sounds wrong doesn’t it… source…


  33. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 3:41 pm


    Hence they want refinements… what they emphatically say no to is adding another 6th side to an already saturated comp and huge noises about player strain…

    I’ve loved this S15 other than too many games on the road at silly times… the lead-up to the final was spectacular for many reasons and for both teams…

  34. avatar out wide says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    It is however possible to be #11 on the list of average attendance as the Chiefs were this year (# 12 in 2012) and still pull in a healthy profit as long as your franchise makes the finals it seems. The Chiefs reported today that they expect to make around the same $850 000 profit they made last year ~ R5.4 million. Not too shabby.

    Meanwhile the Crusaders reported on Friday that despite being 10% down on “bums on seats”, they will break about even ($174 000 profit in 2012) The vagaries of playing home vs away games in the S15 playoffs appear to have bitten them. Although they received as per SANZAR rules, A$100 000 from the Chiefs for appearing in the semi-final game in Hamilton, this was offset by the Crusaders having to pay the Reds A$75 000 for appearing in the 1/4 final in Christchurch the week before plus 1/3rd of the Reds airfares and accommodation costs as per SANZAR.

    Complicated business this bums on seats vs franchise bottom line issues.

  35. avatar Craven says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Out Wide, definitely seems very complicated.

  36. avatar Craven says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Bryce, I have mentioned it countless times, but I am definitely not in favour of adding another SA team, that is the last thing this competition needs.

    If I had my way, we would be back to 12 teams with 4 per country. We would have the derby games per country at the start of the competition on a home and away format, with the two top teams per conference going into a Top 6 (much like the cricket world cup opperates). Each team will play the other teams from opposing conferences (not playing the one team from your own confefence again) at venues determined by a draw. Top two teams after all this play the final. You can have players playing 11 games at most.

    In SA we can use the Currie Cup to determine who plays Superugby. Current 6 franchises play Currie Cup with top 4 finishers qualifying for next year’s Superugby. Players from two teams that fall out can contribute players to a pool where 4 Super teams can “rent” players from the non-participating unions, thus providing them additional revenue.

  37. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 5:01 pm


    Yep going to be interesting to see what transpires… I foresee them having home Super rounds that double as domestic premier league comps (being fed by current CC/ITM comps) and the top few table-toppers qualifying for the real deal.

    Still doesn’t do away with the travel aspect and time-zones (which NZAR are wanting more and more to do away with now)…

    Or they’ll refine RSA’s current want of two separate East/West comps (incorporating Arg)and table-toppers meeting…

    Quite frankly, whilst I’m not that keen as an RSA rugby fan… it’s starting to make more sense for NZAR to break-off and start their own comp…

    Less travel, less fatigue, less money (but less expenses and a more interesting local product), increased tests (which is where 70% of NZAR money comes from)… they’ll still sell the product worldwide due to the quality and even RSA will still buy the product…

  38. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 5:04 pm


    Still doesn’t help Kings though… they cannot even make the CC to force their way into contention… let alone top the tables to qualify for a Super place?

  39. avatar Boertjie says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    From a book on Blue Bulls 75 years I’ve just finished editing:

    By 2011 the chalets contributed 31% to the income;
    sponsorships 26% and broadcasting rights 9%. The other
    34% comes from sources less than 9%.
    Players and coaches of all the professional teams
    cost the franchise 53% of income.

  40. avatar Mug Punters Organisation of South Africa says:
    August 6th, 2013 at 6:02 am

    Too much rugby and the working man is going broke coupled with the fact rugby numbers have always been overstated.

    Don’t know about NZ but rugby here is probably the 4th sport in a very small rugby community. Its fucking awesome that they compete considering the numbers buts what more shocking is how poor we compete considering our numbers.

  41. avatar Craven says:
    August 6th, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Very interesting take by Alan Zondagh on Supersport about a restructure of the rugby season in the southern hemisphere:


    Breakdown of season:

    The revised South hemisphere season would thus read as follows:

    January: Pre-Season – four weeks (no matches)

    February: Pre-Season – four weeks (includes warm-up matches in last two weeks)

    March: Provincial Season (Currie Cup competition) – four weeks

    April: Provincial Season (Currie Cup competition) – four weeks

    May: Provincial Season (Currie Cup competition) – four weeks
    International teams preparation – two weeks

    June: International tours to SA – four weeks

    July: Super Rugby – four weeks

    August: Super Rugby – four weeks

    September: Super Rugby – two weeks
    International teams preparation for Rugby Championship – two weeks

    October: Rugby Championship – four weeks
    (Would play this tournament in a different country each year)

    November: International team’s preparation for northern hemisphere tour – one week
    Northern hemisphere tests – three weeks

    December: Complete rest period

  42. avatar Craven says:
    August 6th, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I love the idea of playing the domestic competition first, flowing into Superugby and then internationals.

    We can put more emphasis on junior rugby, club rugby and varsity cup and ditch the tired Vodacom Cup.

    Premier League Currie Cup is played between WP, Sharks, Bulls, Freestate/Griquas, Lions and Kings. Top five can qualify for Superugby if we keep it at 5 teams per conference. Will give the Kings and Lions an opportunity to qualify for Superugby fairly measured over a series of games against different opposition.

    It will move the Currie Cup to its rightfull place where all the best players will take part, with no national duty pulling them out.

    Most importantly, it would give the players a proper off season where they can fully recover.

  43. avatar biltongbek says:
    August 6th, 2013 at 11:18 am


    There is a lot here that doesn’t make sense.

    Firstly a ten week currie cup.

    This is either 5 teams playing home and away plus semi final and final weekends, or it is 9 teams playing each other once plus semi final and final weekends.

    If it is 5 teams, we are again reducing our Currie Cup.
    If it is 9 teams, who will it be?

    June Test window.
    Who is going to come 4 tests here? We keep on getting second choice teams and for the most part maximum 3 matches if that.

    Ten weeks for Super rugby, how is this going to work? How many teams?

    Rugby Championship.

    Agree you could host it in a different country every year, but only 4 weeks? And a final when there is only 4 teams? Stick to round robin tice around for 6 matches.

    November tours.
    The test window doesn’t allow for 4 tests.

    Overall this will impact revenue, firstly tests are the cash cows, and by reducing them will impact revenue greatly.

  44. avatar Craven says:
    August 6th, 2013 at 2:07 pm


    With the Currie Cup I believe it can actually be 12 weeks, not 10.
    May has 5 weeks, thus one of the preperation weeks for the incoming tours will be in May and one in June, leaving 3 actual tests as we have now. And you will have all your Boks available for Currie Cup duty,meaning more spectators and revenue.

    As for the rest, you can play around with the durations and make-up of the competition I agree, but I like the structure of the season, with no break in Superugby and the squad can stay together after the Championship preparing for the NH tour. Looks a lot better than what we current have.

  45. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 6th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Keep Varsity Cup, keep club rugby, drop Vodacom Cup, incorporate it into CC ‘B’ league with CC ‘A’ incorporated into the home S15 derbies with the top 5 (or less) playing Super comp… not rocket science…

    I forsee NZAR pushing for something similar with the latter part above…

  46. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    August 6th, 2013 at 2:31 pm


    ‘Super B’ comp is already well into planning stages…


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