A couple of weeks ago the Sharks played their Currie Cup semi-final match against the Cheetahs in front of a near empty GROWTHPOINT KINGS PARK stadium. Maybe this was not the most successful season the boys have had in recent years, but it certainly also was not the worst season that they have had in recent memory either. The 8th position the Sharks managed on the Super Rugby log, missing out on a play-off position, was the worst the Sharks have done since 2010 when they ended 9th on the log, but that year the Sharks also had stadium attendance of over 35 000 for the semi-final against the Bulls (in torrential rain) and were at just about full capacity for the for the final against Western Province. And this was a mere 3 years ago.
The sixth spot the Sharks managed for the 2011 and 2012 Super Rugby campaigns to squeak into play-off spots those years, were also just a little better than the eight spot of 2013, although last year the boys did manage to overcome the odds and make it to the Super Rugby final for the first time since 2007. This could well have had an impact on attendances for semi-finals and finals of the Currie Cup, since attendances for both these years were far superior, to what we saw this year. The 2011 semi-final played against the Cheetahs at Kings Park was played in fair weather, which could easily be seen as the reason for the good attendances that year, but the 2012 semi-final, only a year ago, was again played against the Bulls in awful conditions, again attracting crowds of 30 000 and over.
When I brought the issue up just after the semi-final it seemed that the topic drew some discussion, while some were as appalled as I was with the attendance (seemingly because of the threat of weather), others had excuses, or reasons why they weren’t coming to the stadium, or why they felt people weren’t coming to the stadium and to be fair, they were all legitimate in their own way. My opinion has always been (and this also got quite a reaction), that if you are a fan, and you are able to (geographically, physically, financially, schedule permitting), you will show up no matter how well or how badly your team has been performing and regardless of weather conditions or stadium conditions. But while the few fanatics will continue to insist any true supporter will show up no matter what, the fact is that the majority of the supporters did not show up this year. The fanatics will always come, but what about the Mother who supports the Sharks by bringing her children each week, or the older couple that always came for their favourite braai spot under that tree or friends that got together at the game over the weekends just to hang out? So what if the game was their secondary focus. They were at the game and that’s all that mattered.
Somewhere something went wrong and it seems the reasons that people had to come to the game other than the game itself, are not getting them to the game anymore. Fewer parking spaces, close to the stadium, under trees for a good pre or post game braai atmosphere, because of the giant eyesore that is Moses Mabhida, does not help, neither does the new – ‘no drinking on outfields rule’ – the only things that I can think of that changed since attendances dropped, aside from perhaps the global financial crises.
The point is, I want the stadium to be full again, just check out a couple of clips on Youtube of some of the highlights of the plenty semi-finals and finals the Sharks managed to bring to us over the past few years. The atmosphere at those games is something you would not trade for many things. The question is what do you think the Sharks need to do to get people back to the games. The Chairman of the Sharks Season Ticket Association sent a email out to this year’s season ticket holders asking that they send their suggestions, which he will pass on to our CEO, John Smit. This is your chance, what is your complaints about Kings Park, why did you rather stay at home watching the game on SuperSport instead of going to the stadium this year? And even if you wanted to go, but just couldn’t, what is your suggestions to fill up the stadium?Tweet