The Rabbitohs have been at the forefront of five Sydney based clubs that have developed a scheduling proposal to address the NRL’s lowest Sydney crowds in over 15 years.

CEO Blake Solly, Chief Commercial Officer Shannon Donato and General Manager of Football Shane Richardson have been leading a working group with Canterbury, Wests Tigers, St George Illawarra, Parramatta and ANZ Stadium to secure a better draw for our Members in 2018.

The Club working group met with the NRL’s David Silverton, Andrew Ardo, Shaun Wendt and Nathan McGuirk in June to propose a range of initiatives for the 2018 Draw as well as a suggested draw to ensure the best outcome for our Members.

“We put our heads together at the start of the year and said ‘we can’t have this happen again in 2018, going to the games is too important to our Members’,” said Solly.

“When (the NRL is) talking to us about the power of the Rabbitohs we’re number one or number two in terms of how important our Club’s health is for their health.

“We can make sure they understand that and that our Members, when they’re not happy, will stop coming to games and that hurts the NRL as well.”

Initiatives agreed on by the five ANZ clubs include:

  • Each ANZ tenant club plays each other twice and offer reciprocal/free entry to each other’s ticketed Members.
  • Clubs will nominate a preferred date/time for one of the these games to ensure blockbusters are scheduled to facilitate Member attendance.
  • Each club will split gates for both home and away fixtures to ensure clubs work collaboratively to promote both game and make these events bigger.
  • Each club and the NRL will enter into an agreement over multiple seasons on the above initiatives to grow the game and get the best outcome for our Members.

The new broadcast deal for 2018 gives control of scheduling to the NRL from the broadcasters which has driven the collaboration between the five on field rivals.

“We wanted to make sure we got in there first, we worked with the other clubs, we put together a working group, we worked with the stadium – Daryl, Greg and their team at ANZ Stadium have been fantastic as well – and we wanted to try get to the NRL as early as we could to say that the ramifications of the 2017 draw have been pretty severe.”

CCO Shannon Donato has been proud of the way the clubs have gone about working together to push for these initiatives and provide a better outcome for club Members. However, Donato is also pleased about the Rabbitohs push to create the Club working group.

“Our Members have told us it hasn’t been good enough and they’re absolutely right and we’ve worked really hard to develop a model that fits within the new broadcasting schedule. We’re very confident it’s going to deliver for our Members in 2018,” said Donato.

“One of the things that I’m really proud of is the Club’s effort in being thought-leaders to rectify the schedule.

“We’ve actually been the catalyst to bring the five ANZ clubs together, as well as the stadium, to work towards a schedule that fits within the broadcast parameters for 2018 to ensure we get some preferential scheduling for our Members.

“We’ve been informed from the NRL and the broadcasters that it’s very likely we’ll be playing each of the ANZ tenant clubs home and away in 2018. At least one of those two games against each club will be in a preferential schedule to maximise attendances for those games.

“What that means is it allows both clubs to be able to offer reciprocal rights for their Members, so for the first time we’ll have four reciprocal games with the other tenants at ANZ for our Members to enter into that game for free.

“We’re going to have blockbuster games at key times that out Members can get into as part of their Membership in 2018.”

Donato is optimistic about the outcome from the club working group, the five clubs and ANZ Stadium are awaiting a response from the NRL.

“Blake Solly has done a fantastic job, Shane Richardson has done a fantastic job working with the NRL senior management. The NRL have listened to our concerns over scheduling particularly over the last two years. They understand that we are one of the biggest and most powerful brands in the NRL and our Members need to be listened to,” said Donato.

Blake Solly shares Donato’s optimism and is expecting the collaboration between the five ANZ tenant clubs to yield positive results for our Members not just for 2018 but for future seasons.

“It’s important in 2018 and future years (the last two years are) not repeated and on that basis we get a draw that’s balanced, that’s fair that allows Members the best opportunity to come to games,” said Solly.

“All the clubs will work together to co-promote, to make sure that those games are bigger events than they have been this year and that’s the way of restoring crowds to the game.”