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Will New Zealand’s sport culture be the death of New Zealand sport?

I know this is a bit of a weird thing to say, but I think we have a problem here. I was having a discussion the other day (I think it was yesterday…) about a whole bunch of things. One of those things was sport and the way New Zealanders behave around it. This conversation has brought me to a conclusion – the way New Zealanders interact with sport may just be the death of New Zealand sport in a professional era.

Look at the Otago Rugby Union. Sure, they’re out the woods for now, but it’s the overall trend that is a bit scary. See, overseas, people will go out and support their team. If they can afford it, they’ll go to the match and cheer at the game. If they can’t, they’ll find a pub and watch there. However, New Zealanders aren’t really like that. The Rugby World Cup seemed to be a nice change, but in general, New Zealanders would prefer to watch the game at home, or at a friend/relative’s house if they don’t have Sky (and pretty much all sport is on Sky, so that’s a necessity). They don’t go out and support the team. Look at most rugby games in New Zealand – you’ll be lucky to half fill the stadium.

Sure, you might point out that the NZ Breakers, the team I follow the most, has had more sellouts this season than any other season, and in fact they’ve only had one game that didn’t sell out in 2012. And while that’s correct, there’s two things there – firstly, one team doesn’t point out a change in culture and secondly, a lot of these people are bandwagon supporters. It’s cool to support the Breakers right now. I’m not complaining – the team I love is making a fair bit of money out of it, and that can only be good for the team (and for the sport in general in New Zealand) but it won’t last. They’ll find some other team or sport or hobby to get involved with. That will become cool, and the Breakers won’t be any more. Then there will be me and the long-term supporters, plus a bunch of people who we will drag in while they were trying to look cool. And even though it seems I’m taking the piss out of them right now, I certainly will welcome them with open arms to the family that is the Breakers (I’m just the uber-sarcastic cousin in the family xD). But my point is, the Breakers are doing well, and that’s attracting people. But they won’t be around for long. As much as I hope I’m wrong here, I really don’t think I am.

In a professional era, how are teams supposed to pay the bills – and for that matter, pay the players the fans insist on, if they’re not getting any money because there’s no crowd at games. The Otago Rugby Union might have been New Zealand’s first major issue, but unless New Zealanders put away the Sky remote and pic up their match ticket, we’re going to see more and more of it.

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