New Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver was quoted last week as saying he was surprised to hear Waratahs fans booing their team. He believed this was something that was alien to Australian sport, fans booing the team they support when they under perform.
“They’re demanding not only success, but they demand a style of play which delivers an entertainment package, if you like, that is competitive with what they can get elsewhere.” Pulver was quoted as saying.
He is absolutely correct in his assessment. Times have changed. It used to be great to stand at the bar with a player from your top local sporting team and having too many beers with them and then wobbling off home, with them in an equally wobbly state. With Rugby Union moving into the professional era all of that changed, as it had as salaries rose in other sporting codes. Fans no longer wanted to see the players they paid to watch, their heroes, having a beer. They expect them to be clean living and in peak condition when they run out on the pitch, if they are to deserve the wages they now demand.
Rugby Union in Australia has a far better pricing policy than many of the other sporting codes in Australia, but once again the more you ask your fans to pay to support their team, the louder their voice will be when that team under performs. Which seems entirely fair, but few administrators seem to realise this, as they bury their heads in the accounts and search desperately to not only attract the best players but be competitive and turn a profit. The fans are the lifeblood of every club and when they have bought their ticket they feel they have invested in that club, and if the team does not achieve what it should, understandably want heir voice to be heard.
Pulver seems to understand this. He went on to say “you need a successful team to generate support, or you need to play a very attractive style of whatever game it is.” he said and looked at the success of the A League’s new team Western Sydney Wanderers, “The Wanderers’ success in terms of fan support has come on the back of an outstanding result on the field.”
It is undoubtedly a tough task running any sporting organisation today, and in Australia with so many codes of football to choose from, it is vital that you offer entertainment at an affordable price and engage your fans. Some clubs in each code do it better than others. The next few years will see those who fail in these areas facing the biggest challenges ever. The good news for Rugby Union is the new CEO seems to understand what is needed to restore the game to the highs it enjoyed a decade ago.