Nines triumph ensures its future

By Steve Deane

Shaun Johnson. Photo / Richard Robinson
Shaun Johnson. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Auckland NRL Nines tournament is here to stay. Having smashed targets for ticket sales and visitor numbers, and almost certainly exceeded its target for revenue generation, the tournament seems certain to be a fixture on the city's event calendar for the foreseeable future.

The contracts between the NRL, Auckland City and promoters Duco are initially for a five-year term.

The continuation of the multi-million-dollar ratepayer funding that underpins the event is contingent on its meeting key performance targets, but a contract review would only take place after three years if the event was failing to reach its targets, Ateed general manager destination and marketing Rachael Carroll said.

"The event would have to be really not performing well for the contract not to be continued," Mrs Carroll said.

The sold-out inaugural event had already exceeded ticket sales and visitor number targets set down for year three.

It would be four weeks until the amount of money generated for the city would be known.

The competition format and dates for next year's event would be decided over the next few weeks. Organisers were keen to retain the most successful elements of the event but weren't ruling out significant changes.

"We'll work with the NRL, Duco and Eden Park on a format going forward," Mrs Carroll said.

Dean Lonergan, of event promoter Duco, said the tournament was here to stay. In a perfect world the event will be here for another 50 years," Mr Lonergan said. "Why wouldn't it be?

"The NRL came to town and the superstars came out to play. It was brilliant entertainment. Selling out the ground next year shouldn't be too hard."

Next year's event will take place in January, but the dates have not been finalised. It had always been intended to hold the event in January, preferably over Auckland Anniversary Weekend.

This year's tournament had been shifted later to accommodate the league world cup, while the cricket world cup would impact on the timing of next year's event.

One proposal is to hold the tournament over a Friday and Saturday in late January - a change Mr Lonergan didn't think would affect ticket sales.

"We think people would take the day off work to go to it. But it would be a mistake to change the finishing time to later in the evening. An 8pm finish meant we avoided some of the problems the Wellington Sevens, which finishes around 10pm, encounters."

The friendly atmosphere and lack of crowd trouble was a great advertisement for league, Mr Lonergan said.

"The game presented itself in the right way," he said. "It hasn't always done that in the past but this tournament showed what rugby league is really all about."

Mrs Carroll said Ateed had not received a single complaint about spectator behaviour. Unlike the 2010 Four Nations league double header there had also been no issues with anti-social behaviour as spectators left the ground.

"The message went out very strongly that intoxication would not be tolerated and people were up for that.

"Aucklanders really turned it on. The weather was stunning. It doesn't get better than that as a destination advertisement."

- NZ Herald

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