Australian Rugby Union chief John O’Neill pointed to the Reds as the model he hopes all their franchises will try to follow.
The Reds earned a reputation as being one of Super Rugby’s whipping boys before dramatically transforming their fortunes and winning the tournament in 2011. Their success, gained off the back of entertaining play, ensured the Suncorp Stadium was regularly packed.
O’Neill appealed to Australia’s other four franchises, all of whom are in a perilous financial position, to follow the Brisbane side’s lead. ‘We know it annoys some people that we reflect on the Reds as an example … but you do like to reflect on success,’ O’Neill told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘The Reds have turned it around by playing entertaining, winning rugby, and their home crowds over a two-year period have gone from an average of 13,000 to 35,000. That was obviously helped by a home semi-final and final, but their TV ratings also went off the radar.
‘We’d love to see that replicated throughout all of the franchises and the five Australian cities. It is critical for all of them – some more than others – that they shoot the lights out this year, have extremely successful performances on the park and drive crowds.
‘All bar the Reds can do better on their crowd figures. It’s not a criticism, it’s a statement of fact. Besides the Super Rugby distribution we give them, the provinces’ sources of revenue involves corporate sponsorship. But their principal source is match-day revenue – ticket sales, memberships, corporate hospitality.’
‘Success is infectious, and if the Waratahs, Brumbies, Rebels and Force can emulate some of that, their boards and their management will be dancing in the streets, because it takes some of the financial pressure off. And it is entirely under their control. You have got to get people to feel absolutely in love with their team.’
O’Neill also spoke of the importance of winning as a means of driving private investors. ‘People are soon banging on your door to become members, and that helps make the province a financial success. Enticing private investors is also a lot easier if the vehicle is successful,’ he said.