Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Super 14 is ripping you off

And you may not even know­ it. [also posted at The Dropkicks]

A fortnight ago, a workmate based in our NSW office revealed via the company S14 email group the price he was expected to pay to see his beloved [Yeah, I know, WTF?] Waratahs in the flesh. I was amazed. [You can see the full list at the bottom of this post]

$37.30 NZ to see the Force at home? Really? A team which cannot hold onto its players and is not even the premiere rugby team expects you to pay 'as little as' $37 and as much as $80 for 80 minutes of rugby? What does it get spent on, John Mitchell's shaving creme?

When I looked at NZ, I was not surprised that the High
landers had the lowest average, but I was taken aback that they didn
't have the cheapest tickets.

What is the image that pops into your head when you think of the typical Highlanders fan? If you're anything at all like me, it's students. If you've ever b

een to Dunedin, you'd know that the student quarters are around Castle St. I was down there last year and it cost $25 to get to Carisbrook - there weren't any free buses as you'd think. In fact, there weren't any buses around game time. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but I couldn't find them and didn't see any when I got there. So unless you have a car, you're looking at $45 just to get to the game and get in. You can see the distance in this map, just look at all the traffic lights!




The Chiefs and Blues seemed very decent to their fans, with $15 and $12* tickets on offer respectively. The Chiefs play at arguably the best ground to watch rugby in the country, and both have a backline studded with All Blacks. The Crusaders have the most expensive tickets in their half-stadium, which makes you wonder a. whether the majority of seats left are expensive or cheap and if this is why so few people go and b. how much does AMI pay Vbase for naming rights and how much of this winds up at the CRFU?

Before shifting focus to South Africa, I'd like to remind you that the South African Rugby Union has a deal with News Corporation [in this article from 1996, to the tune of 360m GBP] which may or may not be paid to unions and stadiums to pay for fees and that Coca-Cola has recently paid 450m RAND [$83,189,932.31 NZD] for Ellis Park. With t

hose factors in mind, it's bloody cheap to go and see a South African team - even the Bulls - play a game of footy. I'd even argue that News Corp are getting superb value for money, as the SA-based games are always well attended and that would be a very marketable aspect, as opposed to the obviously empty NZ and AUS stadiums.

Match attendance is always scrutinised by the media and used as a way to justify their argument that support for rugby is dying, yet stadiums continue to increase their prices. They aren't the only business which does this, but it simply beggars belief. Why would you raise prices when you can lower them by $5, potentially increase attendance and make more money than you would?

  I posed that exact question to several unions, a couple of journalists and some fellow bloggers. With each union I also questioned them on local issues, for example; with the ORFU, I raised the point about students and I pointed out to the Waratahs that they had the cheapest average price in Australia. I emailed the ARU, wondering how prices could be so uncompetitive in a country which is dominated by AFL, rugby league and cricket. I even contacted our head honchoes, the NZRU. I did not receive a single reply - unless you count the NZRU's standard autoreply.

Why not? I'm a consumer. I want to ensure I'm getting the best value for money I can. Heck, I attend all the Hurricanes matches out of some misguided loyalty that it just isn't the same to watch them on TV when they're playing in my town. I made them aware I was a blogger, and gave them the figures I've posted here [just not in the nice shiny format Noizy provided], so ignoring me didn't mean I wouldn't write this. This article may seem like a thinly veiled attack on the unions despite my best intentions, but that is because I had no way to keep it fair and balanced without a comment from those involved.

I've pondered this silence since I began my research - I even gave them an extra week before I wrote this - and still can't figure it out. It's almost like they don't want you to know. It may sound like a conspiracy, but I've had one journalist friend tell me that they couldn't be involved with this as if the NZRU found out, their company could lose access to them. 'The great black poppa doesn't like being told off by its subjects', I was told.
But I did receive correspondence from some Aussie bloggers.
Moses from Beer and Sport picked up on the Force's prices: 
"I'm amazed that the most expensive tickets will gain you entry to the worst ground in the comp where you can watch the worst forward pack in Super Rugby reverse across an oval. Go Force!"

And Juan from Green and Gold Rugby pondered this about NSW:

Do the Tahs charge less than the other Aust teams because they never use the full compliment of 15 players each game, they seem content to only use the forwards?

There was only silence emanating from South African bloggies, which was maybe a good thing because they'd just change their minds later on anyway [like with the NZ Maori tour, or the Super 14 expansion]

So I guess it comes down to us, the paying customers, to decide. Is NZ justified in charging so much in relation to South Africa? Should we be charging as much as AUS? Hell, would attendence increase if prices were dropped? Are television audience figures a good example when you consider there can be more than 100 people watching a match in a bar? Do you feel that your unions engage your province, be it through holding matches throughout it [I'm looking at you, Hurricanes, Auckland and Canterbury], doing the old-fashioned school-tour or simply the 'take a kid along' promotions? Is it a problem of the product being 'boring', or the high charges imposed on consumers by stadiums?

I have many, many more questions to ask but in order to keep you engaged, I'll keep it brief. Discussion in the comments is more than encouraged though and here, as promised, are the numbers:

FranchiseCheapest [in $NZ]Costliest [in $NZ]

* unclear if this includes mandatory $7 child ticket, otherwise the next cheapest is $20.These also do not take booking fees or concessions into account.

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