With the NRL and AFL Grand Finals just around the corner, rugby league fans are once again up in arms – but this time it’s not over the location.
They’re blasting the NRL over the 7:15pm start time.
On the other side of the footy fence, Swans and Doggies followers will be treated to an entire day of coverage, with replays, highlights and throwbacks broadcast from 6am, in the lead up to kick-off at 2:15pm.
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Quite the pre-session for AFL supporters both in the stands and on the couch.
While all States involved in the NRL get the day off on Monday, the argument is that the late kick-off limits punters from “making a day of it” like their AFL counterparts.
A flick through the history books reveals that Rugby League played daytime finals from 1908 all the way into 2001, when Newcastle and Parramatta started at 8:10pm.
Subsequent uproar from fans then led to a shift – with the governing body agreeing on a middle-ground of 5pm.
Supporters were chuffed with the results of this negotiation, until 2013 when the League ceremoniously ripped the rug from right under them, and evening kick-offs reared their ugly head once again.
So why do they insist on the late starts?
Traditionally Friday and Saturday night games attract bigger crowds in League, drawing more lucrative broadcast deals to the code.
Sunday arvo events, on the other hand, tend to pull less people and thus lower profile advertisers.
Despite looming temptation from similar broadcast deals, the AFL stuck to the earlier kick-off, maintaining the 2:30pm start, which has held for 118 years.
Also the 2015 NRL Annual Report revealed a slight dip in attendance from the season before – with a drop of 5 per cent.
While this could indicate a need for the League to capitalise on advertising – many fans argue the Grand Final should be the exception.
Last year’s whopping Grand Final spectacle pulled a gob smacking audience of 4.4 million – smashing the AFL’s 3.9 million.
Saturday’s perfect combination of a non-Melbourne side in the Sydney Swans , and the beloved boys from Footscray, who haven’t seen a Premiership in 50 plus years should deliver a similar result for the AFL.
So could the NRL’s decision possibly stem from the fear of a less than impressive turnout on Sunday?
Cronulla, being one of 9 teams in New South Wales, draws an average crowd of 14,000 – similar to the Storm in a state full of AFL fanatics.
That’s a far cry from the guaranteed 30k or so Broncos fans alone, who make the trip to Suncorp Stadium each week.
Upon further analysis, it also appears that most Aussie major sporting events opt for daytime action, including the Melbourne Cup (3pm), Netball World Cup Final (3pm) and the Rugby World Cup Final (4pm).
While the 7:15pm kick-off for Sunday won’t change, the NRL’s past openness to evolution could deliver a day-time Grand Final in 2017.
Are you a fan of the early-start? Or are you more into a Sunday night clash?
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