Rugby: Memo to the QRU / Queensland Reds on the fan experience

Last night saw the end of the 2014 Super Rugby season for the Queensland Reds. In a season where the membership of the Reds hit 55,000 (obviously this number includes single / three game memberships) it is strange to be writing a post about improving the fan’s experience. However, having attended all but one home game this year: the matters I intend to raise are things that have been floating through my mind all year.

Whilst the Reds are to be applauded for their obviously excellent membership drive this year, in the context of a poorly coached and under performing team going onto the field, here are 5 things they or the QRU must improve on to improve the fan’s experience AND keep all those members coming through the door:

1. Stop playing music / chants in the middle of play

I have never experienced this at any other Australian sporting event: the playing over the loud speaker of a stylised “We are Red” chant at important and even ad hoc parts of the game. It is irritating and does not promote chanting. Rather it is an embarrassment and must stop.

2. Time for a new “on field” announcer

The fan experience before and after the game and during breaks in play is oft guided by the “on field” announcer and the fellow the Reds have been trotting out for the last seven years is, frankly, appalling. Yelling into the microphone at every opportunity does not make for good ground announcing nor does being embarrassingly partisan. It is time for “Woodie” to head back to River 94.9FM and a change to be made.

3. Schedule more afternoon games

The next generation of rugby union fans are obviously in the age group of 5-12. The Reds (and indeed all sports franchises) have to take positive steps to get more these future fans to the games. A simple way to do that is to the schedule the game at a time that is more kid friendly. A 7:40pm is just too late for young families to come to the game. Scheduling more games at 3pm or even 4pm on a Sunday would solve this problem.

4. Open enough bars / food outlets to serve everyone comfortably

I have noticed over the last four or five rounds a contraction in the number of food outlets and bars open in the area in which I sit despite there being a steady increase in fans sitting in the area, particularly last night. Of course this leads to longer queues and more time away from the game. One would have thought given the robbery prices charges that they could afford to keep needed outlets open!

5. Who ever decided not to sell a match program last night must be sacked

I know I am a bit old school but the first thing I do when I walk through the gates of any sport event is buy a program. Whilst I was later than normal last night, when I arrived some 45 minutes before kick off I was astonished to find no programs on sale and I was not the only one looking for one! A program is an important part of the game experience for many fans: this must not happen again!

As I said at the start of this post: the Reds are to be applauded for their excellent membership drive this year. That said, if they want to keep those members, particularly members who have been members for a long time, these are matters that must be fixed in my view.

Bring on 2015 and, hopefully, an improved fan experience!

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