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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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The price of football giving NSW the blues

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NSW supporters cheer on the Blues in the 2023 State of Origin series. Photo: NSWBLUES Instagram.

As the cost of living continues to rise, simple joys like going to watch a rugby league game are becoming tougher to afford. And it’s having a devastating effect on some of the biggest sporting events in the country.

You only need to look to Game 1 of this year’s State of Origin series—very oddly far from sold out the day before the game—for an example of how rising costs are prohibiting families from partaking in long-beloved sporting traditions.

The most premium seat in the house would have set a fan back $324 a ticket, the cheapest (for a junior) $64 with a restricted view.

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For reference, at the time of writing, you can book a flight overseas to Queenstown with up to 23kg luggage, a carry-on and a meal with Air New Zealand on a deal for exactly $324.

Not surprising then that of the 143 sections at Accor Stadium, seats in more than 65 of those were still available to book the day before the game.

Game III at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane has already sold out in comparison. Those lousy Queenslanders will argue their state “just get” Origin, but it’s clear there’s a problem and it’s not down to any lack of state pride south of the border.

To witness state v state, there’s now the first battle of cost v consumer to overcome.

This trend not only impacts families, but also has broader implications for the sport itself as it risks pricing out a whole generation of potential fans, or even future stars of the game.

It begs the question: is sport now a commodity reserved only for the elite?

Already we’ve seen the monstrous rising costs for parents to enrol their kids in local junior sport, with the ABC reporting families spend more than $600 per child each season for registration, uniform, boots, and other associated costs.

Add to that the several hundreds of dollars it now costs to see a live game and that’s a lot of pressure on wallets all in the name of sport.

Atop parking and transportation costs, pressure to splurge on expensive merchandise, and rising costs of venue food and drinks, there’s no easy way to save a buck if you want to take your kids, nieces, nephews or grandkids to see a game.

The result?

People were staying away, and less than 48 hours before New South Wales and Queensland were set to do battle, mystery NRL sports columnist The Mole broke news Ticketek were offering two-for-one tickets.

“NRL can’t fill Accor Stadium for Origin!” The Mole wrote, “How would you feel paying $320 for a ticket – and now u (sic) can get 2 for that!”

It certainly doesn’t make anyone feel good—not least those who already forked out, but also the series organisers.

While those grubby Maroons will suggest rugby league in NSW simply doesn’t have the appeal it used to, the fact is that Sydneysiders aren’t willing to bend the knee when they suspect exploitation.

There’s a simple solution in all of this—price your event fairly.

You only have to go far back as two days earlier on a cold Monday night when the Matildas sold out the very same stadium to the cheers of 80,000 fans for a friendly game against China before jetting off the Olympics.

Prices began at $20 for juniors, $25 for concessions, $35 for adults and $90 for a family ticket. Fair and reasonable.

So much of sport, as with any entertainment, is a money-making machine, but there’s only so much people are willing to tolerate. Rugby league doesn’t need to inflict harm on itself like this.

Don’t let kids miss out on seeing their heroes.

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