Posted 22 February 2012 - 12:55 AM
"The Tigers' Leichhardt Oval and St George Illawarra's WIN Jubilee Oval are the two grounds most likely to become the first membership-exclusive in the NRL."
THE Wests Tigers will open Leichhardt Oval to Cronulla fans in round one, but the NRL won't force clubs to allocate opposition seating if their membership numbers exceed stadium capacity in future.
Tigers officials agreed yesterday to give both Cronulla and Tigers members first crack at buying the remaining 9000 tickets for the round one Sunday afternoon showdown at Leichhardt Oval.
The Tigers contacted Cronulla yesterday and agreed to put the remaining tickets on sale from 9am tomorrow in a three-hour window.
"But where the Dragons and Tigers differ from most clubs is their multi-venue packages, with separate Kogarah-Wollongong and Leichhardt-Campbelltown memberships offered to the respective fans."
While membership figures aren't high enough to limit an NRL game to home-member-only affairs just yet, it is a prospect facing the Tigers, Dragons, Eels, Sea Eagles, Panthers and Sharks, as their numbers continue growing towards the capacity of their suburban grounds.
The NRL is tipped to surpass 200,000 club members before the start of the season, but the rapid growth in numbers, already up 10 per cent on last year, is casting a dark cloud over the long-term future of the competition's boutique suburban grounds.
The Tigers' Leichhardt Oval and St George Illawarra's WIN Jubilee Oval are the two grounds most likely to become the first membership-exclusive in the NRL if their memberships continue to increase at the rate they have been.
Cronulla's chairman, Damian Irvine, said it was important opposition members aren't ignored in the future.
''I don't think there should ever be a situation where only the members of home fans get in - absolutely not,'' Irvine said.
''There's not a sport in the world that does that and even Old Trafford, where tickets are sold out months in advance on some occasions, there is still always an allocation for opposition members.
''I'm all for members having first crack, whether that be for finals or a high demand game. But you can't treat members with disdain for a big blockbuster match then expect them to come and support you when it's a quiet, wet night in Penrith or Campbelltown.''
Most clubs in the NRL are up on the number of members registered at the corresponding time last year.
But where the Dragons and Tigers differ from most clubs is their multi-venue packages, with separate Kogarah-Wollongong and Leichhardt-Campbelltown memberships offered to the respective fans.
While Irvine is expecting Sharks fans to purchase a large portion of the members-only tickets available tomorrow morning, he said it would benefit rugby league in future if all clubs designated a section of the ground for supporters of opposition clubs.
''I'm a big advocate for having an away-supporters allocation and area,'' he said.
''I think there is plenty of pluses of having those at all grounds, certainly from an operational point of view it's great for security but more so for atmosphere as well.
''It's certainly something that European football does very well. If you've got a percentage of away supporters, and let's use Leichhardt as an example, it's great to have the Sharks fans all together wherever possible.
''The atmosphere for that is fantastic and makes for good theatre, too.'
Posted 22 February 2012 - 06:43 AM
Edited by Bourbon Rat, 22 February 2012 - 06:45 AM.
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