New Zealand crowd expected to fall

The second AFL game on foreign soil for premiership points is expected to draw a significantly smaller crowd than last year's historic clash.

While the AFL is projecting an attendance dip of between 20 and 33 per cent for the Anzac Day clash in Wellington, New Zealand,  between St Kilda and the Brisbane Lions, it says it always anticipated a drop in year two.

More than 22,500 attended last year’s match between St Kilda and Sydney in Wellington, which was the first game in a highly lucrative deal that now has the Saints committed to New Zealand until 2018.

To help generate more interest, St Kilda players hit the streets of Wellington on Wednesday to hand out pamphlets promoting the game.

The AFL is predicting this year’s crowd figure will be between 15,000 and 18,000. The venue - Westpac Stadium - has a capacity of 35,000.

In explaining the predicted attendance drop, the league has pointed to what is an apparently natural response to ''novelty''  events in sport worldwide. Another factor is the closeness of Easter and Anzac Day holidays.

Fans keen to travel from Australia may also have been put off initially by high airline ticket prices. Fairfax Media understands that St Kilda lodged its concern with the AFL some time ago about the cost of tickets with the league’s airline partner, Virgin Australia. It is understood that matter has since been addressed to the club’s satisfaction.

At the pre-game function in Wellington last year, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key raised eyebrows when he said: "We need our own AFL team.''

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou also described New Zealand as "unquestionably our fastest growth market outside Australia".

One year later, the AFL said the success of the Wellington match would ''not be judged alone on attendance because of the importance of delivering games to new territories and generating interest in Australian football outside our traditional markets''.

With neither Demetriou, his deputy Gillon McLachlan, nor AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick attending the clash in New Zealand this year, Dorothy Hisgrove, the general manager of people, customer and community, and football operations boss Mark Evans will represent the league's executive.

St Kilda has set a target of recruiting 10,000 members in New Zealand by 2018.

The Wellington deal is so rich for the Saints that the one game against Sydney last year is said to have made the club as much money as the eight home games it played at Etihad Stadium last season.

Still eager to attract another co-major sponsor this year, key members of St Kilda’s commercial team have travelled to New Zealand to meet with potential partners.

The Saints committed to one match in New Zealand between 2013-15, with the option to consider further matches abroad for the 2016-18 seasons. St Kilda’s three New Zealand supporter memberships - all of which are recognised in the club’s larger membership tally - begin at $A18.

 

 

We are hopeful of a good crowd again this year in Wellington and are working hard alongside St Kilda and the Brisbane Lions to get people to the game from both New Zealand and Australia.

 

Experience suggests that New Zealand sports fans tend to secure seats late and this is supported by an increase in ticket sales in recent days, although the extended Easter-Anzac Day break is expected to affect the number of local people in Wellington for the game.

 

The success of the Wellington game will not be judged alone on attendance because of the importance of delivering games to new territories and generating interest in Australian football outside our traditional markets.

 

We are hopeful of a good crowd again this year in Wellington and are working hard alongside St Kilda and the Brisbane Lions to get people to the game from both New Zealand and Australia.

 

Experience suggests that New Zealand sports fans tend to secure seats late and this is supported by an increase in ticket sales in recent days, although the extended Easter-Anzac Day break is expected to affect the number of local people in Wellington for the game.

 

The success of the Wellington game will not be judged alone on attendance because of the importance of delivering games to new territories and generating interest in Australian football outside our traditional markets.

The story New Zealand crowd expected to fall first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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