THE NRL will undertake extensive research in coming months to determine whether rugby league fans want to continue attending games at suburban grounds. Supporters were left angry and frustrated this week when the state government announced that funding for decaying local grounds would all but cease.
The issue was discussed heavily yesterday during the club chief executives conference at Rugby League Central.
Over the next three months, the NRL will research the needs of fans and clubs to determine the game's most effective stadium strategy.
The NRL hopes to find a delicate mix in which clubs can continue to play games at their suburban grounds and also at the larger Sydney stadiums.
"We have committed to a strategic target of averaging 20,000 fans a game by 2017 and to do so we need to look at the capacity we have and the experience we are offering," NRL interim CEO Shane Mattiske said.
"We are going to have to look at every aspect of our match day, and matching games to the appropriate stadiums is at the heart of that.
"This isn't about moving every match to a major venue but it is about ensuring we have the strategies in place to play matches in the most appropriate location for that match.
"It is a case of all the clubs working together with us to grow the game in the years ahead. In 2012 we have already seen matches scheduled for Perth, Darwin, Mackay and Coffs Harbour and we want to take a longer-term view of the value of clubs moving matches.
"Certainly we believe there is an opportunity to grow the reach of the game through a strategic approach and the clubs are supportive of what we are trying to achieve."
With Brookvale Oval in desperate need of a facelift, Manly fans were further disappointed yesterday when the club announced it would take a round-four home game against Wests Tigers to Gosford.
Yesterday's meeting also discussed a new broadcasting opportunity that would see clubs market memberships, ticketing and merchandise through a programming agreement with Nine's Channel 94 Extra.
This would provide the NRL and clubs with up to 16 hours of free-to-air television programming, half of which would be screened during weekday prime time, and the other eight hours during the morning on weekends.
"It is a new way to market sport in a commercial sense and will involve information-based programming and retail opportunities," said NRL general manager of marketing and commercial, Paul Kind.
"In meeting with Channel 9 today it became clear this is an opportunity to engage people on a daily basis about our clubs, community and participants."
Extra will show rugby league from March next year.