Game's stocks are on rise
By Peter Jenkins
June 21, 2005
AUSTRALIAN Rugby Union bosses last night welcomed an independent survey that shows the code has developed a stronger following nationwide than rugby league.
First time union has surpassed league nationally.
The Sweeney Sports Report, conducted since 1986, reveals 44 per cent of 1000 respondents polled across the country in the six months to March this year have an interest in union, compared to 41 per cent for league.
It is the first time the 15-man game has surpassed league in national interest, prompting ARU managing director Gary Flowers to say: "Sceptics said we wouldn't be able to maintain levels of interest after the 2003 World Cup.
"Well, we've not only maintained them but grown interest in the game.
" This is a great result for rugby."
Australian rules returned the strongest finding of all football codes with 55 per cent while soccer, buoyed by supporters of the English game and high participation levels, was ahead of both union and league at 45 per cent.
People surveyed were questioned on general levels of interest in a sport, how often they read about it in newspapers, their personal participation, whether they attended matches, and if they regularly watched it on television or listened on radio.
Flowers said even more importantly for the ARU was that rugby had outstripped the other football codes in growing interest for the game over the past three years.
In 2001, before the British and Irish Lions toured Australia, interest in rugby union was at 29 per cent.
The gains in three years of 15 per cent compared to six per cent growth in interest for Australian rules and rugby league and 10 per cent for soccer.
"The World Cup was obviously a watershed for the game in this country," said Flowers.
"This report is a vindication of the growth we made during the World Cup when we captured the imagination of people. It brought new people to the game and we've kept them because they liked what they saw.
"We've retained that World Cup audience and built on it. A lot of people outside our game saw it as a one-off event.
"But next year with the expansion of the Tri-Nations series and Super 14 we'll have even more games to get more people interested."
The Sweeney Report showed Australian rules was the most watched sport on television, followed by cricket, tennis, rugby union, rugby league, soccer and swimming.
But rugby league remained the king of sports in Sydney.
Fifty-nine per cent of respondents declared an interest in rugby league, compared to 56 per cent for rugby union and 51 per cent for cricket.
The Daily Telegraph
http://foxsports.news.com.au/story/0,86 ... 17,00.htmlUnion tops league in popularity contest
By Greg Growden
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
It is the moment rugby union administrators have dreamed of for decades - when their game passed rugby league as the more popular national sport.
The latest Sweeney Sports Report reveals 55 per cent of people are interested in AFL, followed by soccer (45 per cent), rugby (44 per cent) and league (41 per cent) - the first time in the report's 18-year history.
The survey of 1000 Australians aged between 16 and 65, who were interviewed between October and March, shows interest in rugby union - based on participation, match attendance and media following - was up 15 per cent and the gap between it and AFL had been cut from 20 points to 11.
The last Sweeney survey, in winter last year, showed league and union neck and neck on 42 per cent, behind AFL (53 per cent) and soccer (46 per cent).
Rugby now also has the second-highest level of press readership of all codes. AFL leads with 19 per cent, followed by rugby with 13 per cent and soccer and rugby league on 12 per cent.
In Sydney, league has a 20 per cent readership, with rugby on 17 per cent, soccer on 12 per cent and AFL on 11 per cent. In Brisbane, AFL, league and rugby are each on 15 per cent, and soccer 10 per cent. In Melbourne, AFL reigns supreme on 27 per cent, soccer on 13 per cent, rugby on 7 per cent and league on 4 per cent.
The survey showed that rugby was also watched more on television than league - 40 per cent to 38 per cent. However, rugby had enjoyed a 14 per cent increase since 1998, compared to soccer's 6 per cent, league's 5 per cent and AFL's 4 per cent rise.
Rugby has also enjoyed a 7 per cent increase in attendance since 1998, compared to 6 per cent (AFL), 4 per cent (soccer) and 3 per cent (league).
The Australian Rugby Union's managing director, Gary Flowers, said yesterday that the survey was "a great result for rugby".
"The 2003 World Cup tournament was obviously a watershed for the game in Australia. There were some sceptics who took the view that we wouldn't be able to retain the interest levels after the last World Cup," he said.
The sport that held the greatest national interest was swimming (59 per cent), followed by tennis, cricket and AFL (55 per cent). Then followed soccer, union, league, cycling, bushwalking/hiking, golf, running, gym workout, motor-car racing, athletics, snooker and basketball.
I noticed some carry on about the above articles on BigFooty. Obvioulsy true indictators and common sense would suggest it makes some very inaccurate claims, but I wonder what Talking Footy's Rugby enthusiasts (providing we have any) and followers of other codes make of it.
Judging by the reponse to this survey of 1,000 people, Rugby Union has taken over Rugby League in nationwide popularaity. And, according to the growth rates, in approximately 1-2 years time AFL will be replaced at the top of the food chain by Rugby and become the number 2 football code in Australia.
Already I can hear Beaussie screaming
There was a link posted at League Unlimited that provided the total viewership figures for the 2005 Super 12 season. It said that a record 2.3 million people tuned in to watch the Super 12 season on Fox.
To make a few comparisons, this is the rough equivilant of one half of a round of AFL football, one round of NRL on Free-to-air TV, three-quaters of an AFL Grand Final across the capital cities and only two-thirds of a typical Rugby League State Of Origin match nationwide.
The lack of matches and Free-to-air coverage (a common sense arguement) would also suggest that Rugby not only doesn't challenge AFL and Rugby League, but doesn't even fall into the same category in terms of viewing numbers.
Therefore, the following claim has been disproved:
The articles also suggest that the gap between Rugby Union and AFL (using crowds, match attendence and media following) has been halved, suggesting that Rugby will soon pass AFL.The survey showed that rugby was also watched more on television than league - 40 per cent to 38 per cent. However, rugby had enjoyed a 14 per cent increase since 1998, compared to soccer's 6 per cent, league's 5 per cent and AFL's 4 per cent rise.
AFL is currently experiencing record attendence figures. with an average currently sitting at 35,952: the highest on record. There are only 18 elite Rugby matches (Super 12) in Australia each year, and the averages range from 15-25,000. The Queensland Reds in particular are experiencing very poor crowds this year. Some as low as 11,000.
So if anything, the gap the widening not closing.
Same can be said for Rugby League's NRL and State Of Origin Series, which are also experiencing record attendence figures.
Common knowledge also tells us that in South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania, coverage of AFL is at saturation levels. In New South Wales and Queensland, two states that are home to over 10,000,000 Australians, Rugby League is also a distant first in media coverage.
So the following suggestion of Rugby superiority over AFL and Rugby League has also been disproven.
I could continue, but most of the arguements follow the same lines.The survey of 1000 Australians aged between 16 and 65, who were interviewed between October and March, shows interest in rugby union - based on participation, match attendance and media following - was up 15 per cent and the gap between it and AFL had been cut from 20 points to 11.
Those who only follow Rugby will beat their chests over the findings of a survey of 1,000 people, but are they entitled to? Should we simply read nothing into this, just like many other independant surveys?
Rugby fans, what are your views?
AFL and Rugby League fans, do you see these findings as a warning or just another survey to laugh off?