Case Study Numerous studies have been carried out on the factors impacting spectator attendance at various sports (Highman & Hinch, 2002; Ritchie et al, 2002; Owen & Weatherston, 2004). In Australia, sport forms a huge part of the social fabric with 65% people participating in physical activities in 2012 and 60% in 2013-2014 (ABS:4156.0; ABS:4177.0). Rugby Union in Australia has gained popularity in recent years following its professionalization (BBC Sport UK, 2005; Highman & Hinch, 2003). This has led to increased participation numbers from community grassroots to international levels (ABS:4156.0; ABS:4177.0). In addition, Australian Rugby Union spectators and fans have been rewarded with the inclusion of more teams in the World Rugby’s (formerly International Rugby Board or IRB) Super Rugby Tournaments with 2 teams in the Super 6 (1992-1995), 3 teams in the Super 12 (1996-2003), 4 teams in the Super 14 (2004-2010) and 5 teams in the Super 15 and 16 Tournaments (2011 to present) (Highman &Hinch, 2002; Highman & Hinch, 2003). Despite Rugby Union’s growing popularity and increased participation rates, spectator attendance has gradually declined and more sports venues are struggling to attract capacity crowds (Austadiums, 2015). This paper will focus on the Queensland Reds (QLD Reds) team and attempt to explain the reason for the declining spectator numbers at Rugby Union matches in Australia.
Athlete Match Day Performance Impact on Spectatorship: The Case of Super 16 Rugby Union in Queensland, Australia
The main research question for this paper is “How does athlete match day performance impact on Spectator Attendance in Super 16 Rugby Union matches in Queensland?” This question will specifically look at the QLD Reds Rugby Union team and matches played at their home ground of Suncorp Stadium in Milton, Queensland.
Numerous studies have been conducted to examine the driving forces of spectator attendance. Most of these have been conducted on overseas Rugby Union teams only. Ritchie et al (2002) touched on spectator attendance briefly but with a focus on attempting to profile spectators who attended matches played by the ACT Brumbies in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. That paper gave some good insights which led to the culmination of this study which will focus on the relationship between game outcomes and spectator attendance for matches played by the QLD Reds at home.
By examining this QLD Reds team case study, it is anticipated that a deeper insight can be achieved into spectator decision making with regards to sports consumption. The hypothesis on examination is that spectator attendance and match outcomes have a positively linear relationship. In that, as match outcomes increase or are favourable, spectator numbers will increase, and vice versa. At this juncture it should be noted that this paper acknowledges that the question on spectator retention may play a part in the hypothesis testing.
With the gradual decline in spectator attendance numbers as was witnessed in several Rugby Union matches hosted in Australia (Austadiums, 2015), in comparison to other countries like New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, there is an urgent demand for answers and strategies to mitigate the decline in venue sports consumption. This research question is thus crucial as it will allow practitioners to not only appreciate the key drivers of spectator attendance, but it will also hopefully provide practitioners with strategies to influence spectator attendance at future matches.
The Rugby Union Super 16 Tournament is one where teams from Australia (5), New Zealand (5) and South Africa (6), under the banner of SANZAR (formed by the South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby Union boards) play games in a round robin format with a winner determined at a Grand Final.
The construct of this research paper pertains to the influence match day results have on spectator choice in attending sports venues to watch a Rugby Union match. Specifically, spectator attendance at a QLD Reds match at their home ground, Suncorp Stadium. Spectator choice is akin to consumer choice which is a factor in consumer behaviour. Spectators by virtue of attending venues to watch sports, are considered consumers and the product is sports. Therefore sports consumption analysis would help answer this research question.
For the purposes of this paper, terminology in use is explained in this section. This should assist the reader understand the paper in a simplified manner. Spectator is anyone who attends a sports venue with the intention of watching a sport. Venue is the facility where the sport takes place. In this context of this study, the venue is Suncorp Stadium in Milton, Queensland.
Athlete as indicated in the research topic is the Rugby Union player. The conventional understanding of an athlete, that is one who participates in athletics like sprints, track and field, is not applicable. Instead the term is used to define participants of sports at an elite level and thus, include Rugby Union players. Elite athletes are defined here as those who engage in the professionalised form of the sport. Rugby Union is a professional sport, hence players are considered elite athletes by this definition.