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Friday, April 19, 2024

Figures show NRL’s Las Vegas gamble may just come up trumps

While there were teething problems, there are clearly encouraging signs for the NRL.

“Some of the performance metrics point to early success of the NRL’s US strategy,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said. “It is a long-term strategy, but the early signs are positive and encouraging.

The NRL’s Las Vegas double-header drew a strong crowd and was a ratings winner in Australia.

The NRL’s Las Vegas double-header drew a strong crowd and was a ratings winner in Australia.Credit: AP

“The amount of travelling fans made the experience very special and the clubs and players put on some great football.

“While the statistics are encouraging, there is significant room for growth and improvement.

“This is only year one of our US strategy. We are committed to building a sustainable presence in a competitive but large US market over time.”

One of the aims of the initiative was to drive subscriptions to the Watch NRL app. There were 1749 new NRL accounts created in the US between August and March. While this appears to be a modest increase, that figure was up 167 per cent on 2022-2023. Traffic to the official website also spiked: there were 1,045,270 unique users on NRL.com and the NRL App (up 43 per cent) in the 24-hour period covering March 2 (US)-March 3 (Australia). Of those, 40,870 unique users were from the US, a 185 per cent increase on the opening round of last year.

“Next year’s Las Vegas Round will be even bolder and bigger and the interest for 2025 has already been quite remarkable.”

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo

The NRL staged 21 events in Vegas, hosting 3670 guests. The most memorable was the season launch in Old Vegas. An estimated crowd of 5000 attended the launch.

Footy fans picked up more than 10,000 units of branded Vegas merchandise, with the US-branded Steeden football the most popular.

The official attendance of 40,746, despite wind gusts exceeding 100km/h on game day, is the largest for rugby league on American soil. By comparison, 39,720 watched the All Blacks play the USA in a rugby union Test in 2021 near Washington. The highest crowd for a US Major League Rugby match is 11,427.

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Tickets were purchased for the Las Vegas double-header in 31 countries throughout the world.

The event was covered by some of the US media’s biggest names, including New York Post, Associated Press, Forbes, Fox News, Fox Sports, The Washington Post, ESPN and ABC.

The NRL maintains there is room for improvement. One of the big challenges is to partner with a wagering operator in a bid to cash in on the explosion in legalised betting in the United States. There is also a desire to build the American fan base by being broadcast more frequently on key platforms.

“Outside of the event itself, we are working to keep growing the event week and developing long-term relationships with partners which will attract new fans to our sport,” Abdo said.

“Next year’s Las Vegas Round will be even bolder and bigger and the interest for 2025 has already been quite remarkable.”

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