Market research conducted by Freshwater Strategy, shows that one in six adults in NSW say that they are a fan of the NRL (18%).
This is more than twice as many fans compared with the next most popular league in NSW, the Big Bash Cricket League (BBL, 8%), and more than three times fan support for the AFL (5%).
In NSW, the English Premier League (EPL) has more fans (5%, approx. 275,000 residents) than Australian soccer’s top flight domestic league, the A-League (4%).
Director at Freshwater Strategy, Rhys Lenarduzzi, writes; “unsurprising, the NRL dominates the fan data, with more than double the support of any other sport in NSW.
“Most surprising however, were the results for BBL fans. When cross-referenced against viewership numbers, it is clear that the domestic T20 cricket league maintains a healthy following. It will be interesting to see whether it maintains its lead has over the Indian Premier League (IPL). The IPL has taken on vast amounts of private investment from some of the most renowned sports business operators, including; CVC, RedBird and the Glazer family. There is mounting pressure on Cricket Australia to consider analogous initiatives to keep pace with burgeoning interest in the leading short-form cricket league, the IPL.
“In terms of scope for growing fan bases, the likes of the NRL and AFL can only really try and pilfer more fans from rival codes. But for those leagues dwarfed by their overseas counterparts (namely the A-League versus the English Premier League; and the NBL vis-à-vis the NBA) these are deemed strategies of yesteryear.
“Danny Townsend, A-Leagues CEO, recently reaffirmed a frequently circled strategic point on an episode of Unofficial Partner, a leading sports business podcast. He said that the A-League will no longer strategically pursue the fans of other codes. Rather, the task at hand is to pursue football fans that are not yet A-League fans. He claims there are 8-9 million football fans in Australia, but only around 3 million A-League fans.
“Closing the gap and converting fans from overseas leagues is undoubtedly the way in which the NBL will be thinking. The fan data we have collected shows that basketball fans in Australia are still more likely to follow the biggest and best basketball league on the planet, the NBA.
“Super Rugby’s numbers in NSW are underwhelming at best, and one can reasonably ponder whether Super Rugby can ever compete with the other codes, without a greater presence of professional rugby union across the state of NSW, be it via an expansion team or through an unprecedented lift in NSW Waratahs fan and community engagement”.
Freshwater Strategy interviewed a representative sample of 1,042 adults living in NSW, online between 13th and 16th October 2022. Data are weighted.
For comment, additional analysis, or a more detailed breakdown of results from this poll, please get in touch.