Why the A-League and Super Rugby are so far from matching the AFL and NRL

While I enjoy watching international matches in the two major global football codes, namely football and rugby union, most Australians are likely to prefer watching Australian Rules and rugby league with regard to the best domestic leagues for some time yet. Quite simply, while we all have our own preferences with regard to supporting the […]

Why the A-League and Super Rugby are so far from matching the AFL and NRL

While I enjoy watching international matches in the two major global football codes, namely football and rugby union, most Australians are likely to prefer watching Australian Rules and rugby league with regard to the best domestic leagues for some time yet.

Quite simply, while we all have our own preferences with regard to supporting the various football codes, both the A-League and Super Rugby cannot compare with the AFL and the NRL, which continue to dominate the major football leagues in terms of public interest and attendances, television viewing and sponsorship.

If we look at analysis of 2019 data, we see that of the NRL’s $556 million total revenue around 60 per cent came from broadcasting, with the average television audience at 459,000; 10 per cent came from game receipts; 16 per cent came from sponsorship; and 16 per cent came from wagering (revenue from poker machines in league clubs).

For the AFL, with an average television audience of then just over a million in 2018, 70 per cent of its $794 million revenue came from broadcast rights and corporate sponsors, while an estimated 14.5 per cent came from game receipts, although the AFL’s annual report does not specifically state game receipt revenue.

At a time when broadcasters continue their bidding wars for sporting events, albeit within an increasing awareness of which sports can generate profits, it is football that has suffered most, as Foxtel alone reported $180 million savings over the next three years through fewer payment obligations to sports due to the coronavirus.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

While it was suspected early in 2020 that the AFL and NRL may lose $100 million each in 2020 in terms of revenue before both codes recovered to produce vastly smaller losses of around $22.8 million and $24.7 million respectively, it was football which suffered, most as the $57 million per season broadcasting deal to 2023 was scrapped and replaced with a one-year broadcast deal worth $32 million at best.

With Football Australia reporting in November 2020 that the 2020-21 financial year would deliver a loss of $7.3 million, much lower broadcasting revenue represents a much higher proportion of total revenue, which was predicted to decline from $106.4 million in 2019-20 to $82.7 million in 2020-21.

Football Australia is not alone. Rugby Australia in April 2021 also reported a net deficit of $27.1 million for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a $45.7 million reduction in revenue only offset by $31.2 million in drastic cost-cutting measures, including a $7.7 million reduction in player costs, which were down 45 per cent.

Like New Zealand Rugby, Rugby Australia is now considering selling a stake for foreign investment to prop up declining revenue.

It is clear that the AFL and NRL as primarily domestic games remain in the best position of the Australian football codes to prosper in terms of getting the best possible broadcasting deal as the two leagues attract the most fans by far in terms of attendances and television audiences.

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

In 2021 thus far the AFL has an average 2021 crowd of 28,600, which compares reasonably well with the 2019 average of 36,300 given some games have been played before empty stadiums in Perth alone.

The NRL has also done reasonably well, with the 2021 average to now above 13,800 compared to 16,100 in 2019.

Super Rugby crowds, with far fewer matches in the 2021 ten-round season, have fared reasonably well at 10,000 during 2021 compared to 11,000 in 2019.

However, the A-League has clearly performed worst, with 2020-21 crowds averaging around 5500 compared to the 2018-19 average of 10,864.

If one looks at the television ratings for last Saturday, 8 May 2021, it is obvious how far football has fallen behind the other codes despite 44,000 viewers watching the A-League game between the Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC on the ABC.

In contrast, Channel Seven attracted 559,000 to watch the AFL night match between Melbourne and Sydney and also had a Saturday afternoon audience of 62,000 in metropolitan Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide despite those three cities not having a team play that afternoon.

On Foxtel the A-League audience was a dismal 5000 for Newcastle versus Sydney and 12,000 for the match between Western Sydney and Western United.

Steven Lustica of Western United (L) celebrates his goal

(Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Foxtel’s NRL coverage, however, attracted 264,000 viewers to the Cowboys versus Broncos game, 228,000 to Tigers versus Titans and 179,000 for the Raiders and Knights clash.

The AFL on Foxtel attracted 757,000 viewers for its five AFL matches that day – 559,000 in metro markets and 198,000 regionally.

In the case of Super Rugby, though 207,000 watched the Reds defeat the Brumbies in the grand final on Channel Nine on 8 May 2021, its ratings for the season were more on a par with the A-League than the AFL and NRL.

While Stan has not yet released any audience numbers for its Super Rugby coverage, ratings for the weekly free-to-air match screened on 9Gem fell sharply throughout the ten-week regular season from 121,000 (five-city metropolitan market) for the 19 February game between the Reds and the Waratahs to 52,000 by Round 10.

It remains to be seen just how much broadcasting revenue each football code will attract in future years given the importance of crowd numbers and viewers, which helps broadcasters estimate the ability of any deal in terms of attracting advertising dollars.

Football Australia, while still clinging to a belief that it can become a bigger player among Australia’s football leagues, expresses optimism that a deal will emerge in the coming weeks given interest from across the globe in the A-League from many bidders driven by a thirst for content.

Stefan Mauk of Adelaide United scores a goal

(Photo by Peter Mundy/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It is perhaps this thirst for content by new players to get their foot in the door, which could include interest from Stan, Optus, Amazon Prime, DAZN, Hulu, and fuboTV, that provides the main reason the A-League may get reasonable broadcasting revenue.

And while football fans mock the lack of international interest in the AFL and NRL, it remains to be seen how prepared both domestic and international fans will be to part with their cash to watch the A-League given that football fans have so many better football leagues to choose from.

With the A-League television audience having dwindled badly in recent years, having averaged around 80,000 at its peak, it was reported in August 2019 that Optus had 700,000 Australian accounts subscribing to the Premier League.

Football is indeed the most popular sport on earth, yet I cannot see football making easy headway in the near future to reverse declining domestic crowds, although I personally would like to see the A-League succeed.

Whereas past migration patterns to Australia did help boost football crowds from the 1950s, despite its high and low years over the decades, the high reliance upon southern Europeans and Britons has now given way to mostly Chinese and Indian immigrants in recent years who may have much less affinity to watching or being involved in the football codes.

While many Australians of African backgrounds are now featuring at the highest level in the AFL and football codes and many Pacific Island immigrants most attracted to the rugby codes, it remains to be seen which football code will succeed most in terms of attracting the growing proportion of Australians with Asian backgrounds in coming years.

Thus attracting new Australians of Asian backgrounds is now an issue that confronts all football codes.

As a 2020 article highlighted, at a time when just one man and two women in the AFL had Chinese backgrounds, it was noted that Chinese Australians were among the most underrepresented ethnic groups also in terms of AFL club membership, thus requiring a concerted effort by the AFL to engage all new migrants.

Although the A-League is a league that has the potential to set up a truly national competition with location possibilities in all states and larger cities, it remains far behind the AFL and NRL with regard to attracting greater fan and corporate interest in the key cities and regions where most Australians live – namely Melbourne and Sydney and its nearby towns.

With the AFL and NRL likely to remain the most popular football leagues for some time yet, in a climate where big broadcast deals are decided mostly by the extent of interest through crowd numbers and viewing audiences, I suspect that rugby union and football are going to have some tough years ahead if recent trends are to go by.

Source : The Roar More   

What's Your Reaction?

like
0
dislike
0
love
0
funny
0
angry
0
sad
0
wow
0

Next Article

Springboks: World champions or chumps?

The Springboks-Lions series is beginning to heat up rather fervently and has been ratcheted up even further by articles circulating out of South Africa about a whitewash series victory to the Boks. Much has been made of hobbits coming to the land of giants, a pensioner as the Lions leader, a head coach out of […]

Springboks: World champions or chumps?

The Springboks-Lions series is beginning to heat up rather fervently and has been ratcheted up even further by articles circulating out of South Africa about a whitewash series victory to the Boks.

Much has been made of hobbits coming to the land of giants, a pensioner as the Lions leader, a head coach out of touch and a squad devoid of real substance or players with a point of difference.

However, a salvo has been returned by an overseas rugby scribe condemning the Boks as seen by the rest of the rugby world as nothing more than pretenders to their World Cup crown, a farfetched illusion of a team being the best rugby team in the world currently.

But accusations that the Springboks have hidden away, are ducking opposition and preserving their aura only by having their ranking frozen and by not having their mettle truly tested are way off the mark.

(Juan Jose Gasparini/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The advent of COVID-19 has affected all countries in varying degrees. South Africa has felt its full force and is still in throes of it, but to see the Springboks essentially being called cowards is both over the top and without merit. Player safety was the driving force behind the decision to not participate in the 2020 Rugby Championship, and while I didn’t agree with that choice – I’m sure most fans didn’t – I did respect it. But it is not as if the players refused to play or downed tools.

The idea that the Springboks received a favourable route to the World Cup is also ludicrous. You can only play against who you are drawn to play, that’s how any sporting tournament works. You play the cards you are dealt. The Springboks actually had it all to do after their pool loss to the All Blacks, and only great teams have the mental strength required to deal with the pressure of having their backs against the wall when another loss would see them sent home.

To suggest beating Japan as the home nation – after their monumental victories over Ireland and Scotland – was easy is ignorant. Wales had beaten the Boks on four separate occasions before their semi-final showdown, but it was the Boks who showed their mental strength in keeping cool under pressure and finding a way to win. This is also what great teams do.

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

Their demolition of England in the final was the culmination of their two-year plan, and the Boks showcased it on the biggest stage in rugby, especially after the English press had essentially offered the cup to England as a mere formality in that weeks building up to the match.

The Springboks are undercooked, there is no way around that. The lack of international Test matches will have been of major concern to Rassie Erasmus and Jaques Nienaber, but they have made the best of a difficult situation. While Georgia will provide the Boks with two hit-outs before the Lions arrive, those Tests will serve as a way for the team to gel with one another again, to get rusty combinations working in tandem again and to familiarise themselves with how their teammates play.

What the Springboks will have over the Lions will be memories of how their collective effort as a group won the World Cup when no-one gave them a chance. The Boks team spirit forged over the last two years is palpable when one looks at the documentary Chasing the Sun, which details the togetherness, belief, trust, and gees that go with this group.

The Lions will have to forge something similar if they are to walk away victorious. They have the players and staff to do just that, especially considering the motivation being provided by South African rugby scribes.

This Springboks team could in time become one of the finest Boks teams in South Africa’s illustrious rugby history if they beat the Lions. Winning a Rugby Championship or two and consistently beating the home nations on their end-of-year tours will be further goals down the line. For now, the Springboks will go a long way to proving their doubters wrong once again with a Lions series win.

Iconic baseball player Babe Ruth once said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Team sport is about how the group performs as a collective, and as we have seen before, this Springbok team plays for one another.

Source : The Roar More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.