The start of the AFL season ushered in a series of gushing articles about how wonderful the nearly 45,000 average attendance for the first round was and how the NRL’s struggle to get even 15,000 to their games was an indictment on the code and a sign that its demise was imminent. This is the perfect example.
It’s a giant pissing contest between the codes that makes for clickbaity but uninteresting and uninformative copy for the producers of sports content. These stories don’t tell you anything because there’s no analysis, just regurgitation. I think a closer look will yield something more interesting.
Using attendance as a proxy for popularity or financial stability is a bit problematic. In theory, a team that gets bums on seats is a team that will get eyeballs on TVs and put dollars in the bank.
This idea glosses well over a number of things that can affect attendance: weather, star power of individual players, on-field success of the home team, marketing, off-field mismanagement, stadium quality, access to the game, time of the game, proximity of the teams, rivalries and the alignment of the planets.
At a far enough distance, a lot of these variables will cancel themselves out. I’m looking for underlying patterns.