NORTHERN NSW Football will weigh up the benefits of playing the NPL grand finals at McDonald Jones Stadium with the significant costs attached after a disappointing crowd on Saturday night.
The three deciders, culminating with Broadmeadow’s 3-0 win over Edgeworth in first grade, attracted a crowd of 3772, which was almost 400 less than last year’s inaugural hosting of the matches at the region’s premier stadium.
Despite extra promotion, free tickets and friendlier time slots, the attendance was down from 2017’s mark of 4174 at the 30,000-capacity ground.
The Herald understands NNSWF lost about $25,000 on the event at McDonald Jones Stadium last year and it appears set for another substantial deficit.
NNSWF chief David Eland said the crowd figure was down on expectations and hosting the games at the stadium was reviewed on a year-to-year basis.
“We were certainly hoping to get much closer to 5000,” Eland said. “I don’t think we could have hoped for two better grand finalists in Edgeworth and Broadmeadow. They’ve been the benchmarks for several years now.
“We will wait until we get the reconciliation from the stadium to see where the bottom line comes out, then we will evaluate it and consider it with our budget process.
“We’ll see what we did well, what we can do better and what the options are.
“It’s a very big investment and that needs to be considered in conjunction with demands of our finite resources.”
Eland said costs were not down on last year’s event.
“We tried a couple of different things this year,” he said.
“We invested more in digital advertising, we distributed a large quantity of complimentary tickets to kids who participated in community grand finals right across the Hunter Valley.
“We really tried hard. Our vision for this event is that we want it to be recognised throughout Australia, particularly among the other member federations, as the best grand final.
“And we hope over time that the local football community sees this as the culmination of a season and an event worth going to. That’s what we keep striving to do. I couldn’t have been happier and the directors couldn’t have been happier with the event on Saturday.
“It was a great event. Would we have wanted more people to attend? Of course. We would love over time for the event to pay for itself but that’s not the case at the moment.”
After feedback from the 2017 event, NNSWF moved the first-grade start from 7pm to 6pm and reduced the gap between games. They also did not clash with community level grand finals.
Broadmeadow coach and former Jets captain Ruben Zadkovich hoped the deciders stayed at the stadium.
“I think it’s perfect,” Zadkovich said. “The players work hard all year and it’s semi-professional but they don’t really get semi-professional grounds to play on. A lot of the time the grounds in the league are pretty average so the football standard drops. I like that they get to showcase themselves on a really good pitch, and the standard lifts, and you could see that with my boys.
“It’s reward for those boys. They get the big occasion, with great football facilities, a great pitch and a chance to see what it's like at that level. It adds a bit of incentive to guys like Cody Carroll who might want to kick on.
“I don't think the grand final should be about making money. It's about Northern NSW putting on that spectacle for the players, their family and friends and all those who go.”
As well as stadium hire, Eland said NNSWF invested a significant amount in event presentation.
“We want to provide the players and everyone else involved with the best possible experience and also showcase our men’s premier competition,” he said. “But it’s a significant investment and I wouldn’t expect otherwise because it’s a fantastic stadium and it costs a lot of money to maintain.”
Eland rued the threat of the rain early on Saturday but said he received positive feedback from many at the games.
“Unfortunately we probably were cruelled a little by the wind and the overcast conditions earlier on,” he said.
“But ultimately it turned out to be a beautiful night for football and I’m sure the people who attended thoroughly enjoyed the event.”
Before last year, the top-division grand finals were held at grounds such as Magic Park, Jack McLaughlan Oval and Macquarie Field and hosting clubs profited from canteen takings.