THE NRL has 50,388 reasons to urgently fast-track a second Brisbane team into the premiership.
That was the stunning attendance figure for Saturday night’s semi-final against the Cowboys, almost doubling the three finals played in Sydney over the weekend.
This year the Broncos have averaged 33,595 at their home games — and that’s not counting their bumper semi-final crowd. The closest Sydney club is the Canterbury Bulldogs with 19,684 each home game at ANZ Stadium.
When the NRL did its strategic plan back in 2013 as the independent commission came into power, the goal was to lift the average attendance across the game to 20,000 by 2017.
Instead crowds have since fallen to an average of around 15,000 per game, the lowest level for more than a decade.
It has become obvious the 20,000 target from the mission statement cannot be achieved while the competition structure remains as it is.
Only by expansion into areas of growth will the attendance goal be achieved.
NRL chief executive Dave Smith has the support of the most influential officials at Sydney’s nine clubs to introduce a second Brisbane outfit.
For too long the clubs feel the Broncos have had too big an advantage with one franchise in a population of 2.2 million plus free to air prime time coverage every week.
A second team would restrict the Broncos’ dominance.
“No one can doubt the strength of the game in Brisbane — and the level of support we have among fans,” Smith said on Monday.
“It is one of the best sights in rugby league … more than 50,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium for a Broncos final, like we saw on the weekend.
“We also had great crowds in Sydney to give us a record first week attendance for the finals.”
Smith confirmed there was flexibility in the new TV deal starting in 2018 to include new sides.
“We have built in capacity in the next rights deal for one or two additional teams if we think that is the right decision at the time,” Smith said.
“Naturally we would have to consider every aspect of expansion, including financial structure and the impact on the rest of the competition — in addition to the likely boost in crowd figures.
“But we want to make the competition even stronger, we want to draw bigger crowds and these are the type of issues we will consider during any discussions on expansion.”