Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
2 minute read
28 Apr 2022
7:37 am

Sharks the example as URC look to lure fans back to stadiums

Ross Roche

Good ticket prices are as important as fan activities at the stadiums.

The URC has been pleased with the number of fans returning to matches in South Africa, but admit it remains a challenge on a weekly basis. Picture: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

With the United Rugby Championship having seen a noticeable drop off of fans attending live games this season, CEO Martin Anayi is looking at new ideas to try and draw fans back to stadiums.

Obviously various factors, including the Covid pandemic and rising inflation, have had big impacts on people attending live events, while a top class TV product also makes watching the competition from the comfort of your own home an easy choice.

Despite the difficulties, Anayi has been impressed with the turnouts seen at South African URC games in recent weeks, particularly at the Sharks in Durban, where he explains they are ahead of the curve in coming up with a new fan experience.

“Obviously it has been a strange season with Covid and the South African teams have only just been allowed to have 50% capacity up from 2000 fans,” said Anayi.

“I think we had our biggest attendance at the weekend with about 22,000 fans at the game in Durban (Sharks v Leinster) which is basically them at capacity, and I was most encouraged by that.

“It shows how hard we all need to work to bring people back into games post Covid, and how hard they work in South Africa is testament to that.”

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Anayi continued:  “They’ve (the Sharks) invested in a water slide at one end of the field and they’ve got a beach bar at the other end and they put a concert on after the game. So that’s how hard we have to work to try and make the fan experience of going to a game worth it for a fan.

“Not just because money is tight but because the TV product is so good. So I think (the lack of fans at games) is a bit of post Covid, a bit of change as people’s expectations of what is required of going to a game is slightly higher and they have less money to spend.

“You really need to work hard to bring people into the ground. That’s a mix between having good competitive lower priced tickets available for those to come in, and on the other side of the coin the engagement and fan activities that people now want to have to convince them to not watch it on TV.”

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The Bulls and Stormers have both been able to lure close to, if not over 20,000 fans to their games as well, but it remains to be seen if these numbers can improve when stadiums are further opened up.

The URC did announce earlier this week that they had already broken the record for amount of TV viewers in a season, two rounds before the play-offs, thus there is a large appetite to watch the competition.