SPORT

NRL Grand Final About 4,000 Seats Short Of A Sellout

Not the look the NRL wanted.

01/10/2017 6:39 PM AEDT | Updated 01/10/2017 9:16 PM AEDT
Mark Metcalfe via Getty Images

The NRL Grand final was about 4,000 seats short of a sellout, with an official crowd of 79,722 at the 83,500-capacity ANZ Stadium.

It was bad luck for NRL suits desperate to fill ANZ Stadium that the 2017 decider featured two out of Sydney teams -- just the third time this has happened.

It was even worse luck that neither of this year's out of town teams were the Brisbane Broncos -- who always manage to drag legions of fans south.

All the same, it was not a great look, especially after Saturday's AFL grand final when the helicopter shots showed tens of thousands of Tigers fans who couldn't get tickets watching on big screens next door to the MCG at the Tigers' training base of Punt Road Oval.

It's also a really worrying situation for the NRL given the state of regular season crowds this year, which were just under 15,000 and down on 2016 by about 1.5 percent. It's also less than half the AFL's average 34,000 2017 regular season crowd figure.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg was part of a panel that undertook a strategic plan five years ago, under which crowds were supposed to average 20,000 by now. In a recent interview with Fox Sports, Greenberg blamed Sydney's stadiums -- which for one reason or another, are either ageing or not entirely suited to the game of rugby league.

"We won't shift crowds up until such time as we get the stadium network right in this city," he said.

Few doubt that the rebuilt 30,000 seat Parramatta Stadium will help bring people to the game when it's completed (hopefully) in time for the 2019 season.

Next on the cards would likely be an ANZ Stadium reconfiguration, or complete rebuild. Allianz Stadium, beside the SCG in the Moore Park precinct, may also be in line for NSW State Government funds to help enable rebuild.

ANZ Stadium, host of this weekend's grand final, was built for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and has undergone several transformations in its lifetime. Its main problem now is that fans still feel they are too far from the action. It needs to be steeper, more intimate.

As mentioned, ANZ's current capacity is 83,500. If rebuilt, it would be similar. Whether hundreds of millions of dollars should be spent on redoing a stadium without increasing capacity is an issue for another day. And whether stadiums are really to blame for flat crowds is another question worth asking.

For now, the NRL should be glad that the stadium at least looked full on grand final day. One person in the crowd told HuffPost Australia that there were quite a few spare seats way up high, where he had bought a last minute seat for $50. But you couldn't really see too many of them on TV.

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