As mentioned in the welcome to this latest edition of The Weekend Review, over half term I travelled to South Africa with Edwin Doran Sports Tours to experience and see for myself what a school tour with them is like.
We will be going into more detail about the tour next week, along with some fantastic photos, but in this week’s blog I wanted to touch on something that became very apparent from a rugby perspective out in South Africa.
Attendances. The biggest school games in South Africa are attracting in excess or 25,000 spectators, top schools are averaging in excess of 5,000 spectators a week, even the smaller ones are disappointed to dip much below 900 or so. What are we doing wrong over here?
It is true, of course, that in South Africa rugby is more than simply a game, it is a way of life, and that competitiveness is almost cultural, but even so, the gap in interest and involvement in schools rugby is just too big between us and them.
So how can we bridge that cultural gap and raise attendances here in the UK?
To me, a big crowd at a school sports game is not about commericalising school sport, far from it. To me it is about encapsulating what school sport is all about, it is about a sense of community and togetherness, a shared purpose and taking pleasure in playing the game and trying to make those who love and support you proud.
Your days as a schools rugby, hockey, cricket, netball, or whatever other sports player you are, are for many the best days of their lives, particularly from a sporting perspective. We should be supporting that.
So, it is my pledge to raise the support of, interest in, and attendances at school sports fixtures. Across the board, not just rugby.
We will not achieve South African numbers overnight, but we already have one off games that generate huge interest in UK terms, for instance Whitgift v John Fisher can attract in excess of 1000 spectators. We just have to build on those sorts of fixtures.
If you are a school coach, head of a sport, or Director of Sport, or indeed in the marketing department of your school, please get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will sit down with you and share my ideas on how we can build interest in, and attendance at your school’s sport.
There is so much potential in school sport in this country, it would be a shame to waste some of that potential by not embracing it.