Sydney's 'Couch Potatos': Attendance Figures Fall While TV Ratings Soar
Sydney has become a city of couch potatos, according to Phil Rothfield of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. Crowds in most major sports "have fallen in Sydney in recent years while Fox Sports and Channel Nine ratings have skyrocketed." Melbourne "is also showing us up as a more passionate and fanatical sporting centre," with nearly 7 million fans attending sporting events each year compared to only 3.6 million in Sydney. Alarm bells "were set off in rugby league when only 9,000 fans turned up to watch the Wests Tigers play Penrith at Campbelltown last weekend on a perfect Sunday afternoon." Other sports "are in decline too while the television networks report record figures." Fox Sports ratings increased by 17% on National Rugby League last year and Channel Nine is up 14% this season. The A-League "is the only sport that bucks the trend" -- Sydney FC because of Alessandro Del Piero and the Wanderers, which offer far more affordable tickets. The Sydney Cricket Ground Trust "is taking steps to get fans back to the game with a number of innovations, including a new smart phone app that will allow fans to order their food and beverages then have it delivered to their seats." It is a difficult situation for Channel Nine because it hates "empty seats as much as administrators." Nine Sports Dir Steve Crawley said, "We're delighted with the ratings but we need big crowds to create atmosphere. There's nothing worse than doing a telecast with a pile of empty seats in the background." Major stadiums "are taking up the challenge to fill empty seats." Soon at the SCG and Allianz "you will be able to order food and beverages from your seat via your mobile phone." The SCG "has successfully completed trials and the app is almost ready to go." SCG Trust CEO Jamie Barkley said, "It's a game-changing approach to spectator attendance at NRL games. We are about delivering the ultimate fan experience." The SCG is also erecting a new 273 square meter video screen -- the largest at any Australian sports venue (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/22).