Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crowds

7:1 win vs Adelaide last night. Oh yes oh yes oh yes. Ra ra ra. We actually are the best in the World and everyone else is, slowly but surely, learning to live with it.

The question being repeated everywhere is, how come only eleven and a half thousand people saw one of the greatest football spectacles we might expect to see in club football?

First a brief recap. Suncorp was always an ambitious stadium for the Roar, and even at the height in the first and second season crowds above 20,000 were rare. With the 'Suncorp curse' (remember that?) which seemed to mean that it was impossible for the Roar to score at home even when they were winning away, along with pretty average and/or inconsistent form, crowds trended downward over the first few seasons.

Then, a couple of years ago some accountant demonstrated to a highly astute Roar Board (now all replaced thankfully) that the budget would all add up if they would just radically increase ticket prices, so they did. A few months later they reversed this decision and made the prices cheaper than ever, but it was too late. The crowds had truly plummeted and they never recovered.

In my mind the problem wasn't merely ticket prices. Soccer is a world game and a local game and there is an enormous amount of it available for spectators to enjoy either on TV or live. Most of the live stuff is free or about $5, and these are the leagues that thousands in Brisbane actually play in every week. The very best stuff (European Champion's League) is on free to air TV. The A-League was, and still largely is, a mediocre product. Trying to charge top dollar for it was simply ignoring all of this market environment.

But the price is about right now at Suncorp, and it's especially cheap for under 16s which is also very smart. And the other thing that has changed is that there is now a top-shelf product on show. I'm not going to do any justice here to Roar's extraordinary football. Every football commentator in the country is writing about that anyway. The point is that even connoisseurs would pay good money to see this football, and indeed fans of other teams, if comments here and there are to be believed, are prepared to travel to see Brisbane play.

So now we have an extremely good product at a very reasonable price. The product can speak for itself if the marketers can get people's bottoms there in the first place.

Now I have been a vicious critic of this club in the past and no doubt will be again in the future, so I think I'm obliged to also contribute a constructive thought from time to time, and here it is. It's simple, and I think it would work over time. The Roar have not been idle in promotion and their efforts should be congratulated so far in my view. The issue might be focus.

Target local clubs, as you have been in a way, but one at a time. Start with clubs based close to Suncorp Stadium and work outwards. When you target the Club - say, Annerley Football Club where Jacob used to play - do the afternoon with the club thing, with a bit of a clinic for the kids (members and players of the club only! Must make them feel special), signings and giving away some merchandise - the usual stuff. But maybe even do two events with the one club between home games.

Give the club 100 tickets, half of which are 15 and unders only. Give them an option for more tickets if they have enough demand for them. The seats are in a block, and the more you give away the better. If the Club gets into an opportunistic frenzy and invites friends, relatives, neighbours, milkmen and wandering vagrants and hence want 1000 tickets, where they would all sit in a block, good. If you've got the budget for it, provide them with busses as well. You want to make sure they come.

It sounds generous, but it's just one football club at a time, with home games (approximately 2 weeks) as the framework period. The objective is to introduce the game not to an individual but to a community. Communities of support sustain themselves.

All of this might only work if the premise is true that the football speaks for itself. At this juncture of the Roar's history, I am supremely confident that it does.

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