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Despite decline, rugby doing fine

Despite decline, rugby doing fine


By Paul Harper

Auckland Rugby Union remains optimistic about the future of the code, despite concerns that the game is declining in popularity, crowd attendance and television viewership.

The New Zealand Rugby Union 2007 annual report recognised waning public interest in the sport and announced a $1.7 loss for the year at its AGM in April.

The recent Blues - Hurricanes match bucked the trend of declining crowd numbers and attracted 37,253 fans to Eden Park on Friday night. (sub’s note: May 16)

Auckland Rugby Union Communications Assistant Peter White says that the organisation will not know until the end of the season how this year compares to previous years.

He says the large turnout to the game on Friday was “no surprise”.

“Crowds are always up at the games before the finals.”

He says Blues versus Hurricanes games have traditionally attracted large crowds.

“These games have always had the biggest gate (takings) since 1996.”

He says that Hurricane games at Eden Park attract more fans than other teams; averaging 36,589 per game, versus 32,865 for Crusader games and 31,010 for the Chiefs.

White says although figures are down generally, Auckland has fared better than other regions.

He says the reasons for the decline in interest in the competition are complex.

“It is not as simple as the All Blacks not doing well at the World Cup.”

White says night rugby is not as appealing to families with children and there is more alternative entertainment available than in the past.

He also says fans do not understand the new ELV (Experimental Law Variations) rule changes, but this will change in the future.

The NZRFU is aware of the issue, and White says structural changes are going to be made.

“Changes will be made to the Air New Zealand Cup, which is a very important competition, not this year but probably next year.”

He says the Blues franchise is aware of the importance of putting on entertainment before the game and at half time.

White says he is “very positive for the future” as numbers are up at the junior level and club games are attracting strong crowds.

“Don’t believe everything you read in the paper”, he says.

“The game is in good shape.”

*************

Paul Harper is a journalism student at AUT

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