Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Crowds building on Blues' victories

The Blues' fortunes have risen in the Super 15 and so have their crowds.

After seven games this season they have equalled the four victories they struggled to gather in former coach Pat Lam's campaign last year.

The lift in results has brought a rise in crowds too, with the only small concern a drop in season-ticket holders as a response to last season.

A total of 96,000 spectators have attended the Blues' four home games, with the 31,000 at a Fridaynight match with the Crusaders the highest.

Other crowds have been 25,100 for the Sunday match against the Bulls, 16,500 for a Friday meeting with the Highlanders and 23,400 for last Saturday's clash with the Hurricanes.

Blues marketing manager Grant McKenzie was especially pleased with the Sunday crowd for the Bulls.

"That was a great success," he said. "We had spent a couple of years lobbying to get that match which has been the only game we've had on a Sunday in the last decade.

"Friday night used to be our biggest drawcard and we had a big crowd for the Crusaders because they are always a drawcard. But we think that Saturday is usually a better time for games."

The 24,000 average crowd this year measures up well against last year's 18,500 average, which was still the highest of all five franchises, who are averaging between 12,000 and 14,000 for home games.

"We have a bigger capacity and catchment area," McKenzie acknowledged, "so the expectation is that we will always lead the crowd numbers."

The club had 8000 season-ticket holders last year, but that had dropped by about 1000.

"We do all sorts of follow-ups to find out why people have not renewed their memberships and the feedback we got was they were unhappy with the team's performances," McKenzie said.

The Chiefs and Hurricanes each have about 3000 season-ticket holders, the Crusaders 4000 and the Highlanders 4200.

The Blues' next home game is on May 3 at North Harbour Stadium against the Stormers.

- NZ Herald

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