One of the favourite NRL conspiracy theories is Brisbane’s regular Friday Night Football games. Every year the Broncos get at least 3/4 of their matches on Friday nights. Opposition fans whinge and cry conspiracy. Unlike the “Cowboys were robbed as an Origin get-square”, this theory can be proven.
Nine’s FNF coverage is their ace in the hole. The Friday games are pimped on The Footy Show, so it makes commercial sense that “popular” teams should play. With the Friday night double-header, there’s one game in Queensland, one in NSW. Lang Park consistently pulls 30,000 plus to Friday games, which makes Nine very happy. The games rate well in Queensland, as they’re 7.45pm live game while NSW game is pushed to 9.30pm-3am Saturday morning (or whenever it finishes…)
While the Broncos enjoy a significant advantage, they haven’t won a premiership since the double-headers were introduced.
In terms of atmosphere, Sundays at Lang Park are much better. It’s invariably warm and sunny, the footy is free-flowing and it’s much more family-friendly – the kids are home by early evening rather than late on Friday night.
So what’s the problem?
Fans can whinge and roll their eyes at another Broncos Friday night game, but they know why it happens. Maybe this is the problem. While it’s unfair and creates an unbalanced competition, it;s still logical from a financial and television standpoint and that’s what annoys people. It works because Nine Brisbane can show the Broncos on Fridays , pump their viewers up by broadcasting the sports news from Lang Park and guarantee massive ratings. Meanwhile, struggling teams get almost no free-to-air exposure, which denies them the chance to reach a wider audience.
Nine has a track record with this. When they showed AFL on Friday nights, glamour club Collingwood got the majority of games, with Eddie McGuire commentating. As if Collingwood weren’t hated enough…
Many fans are unhappy with Nine’s NRL coverage. While they talk a big game, they telecast three games a round, compared to five by Foxtel. Until this year, they only showed one live game a week. The 3pm Sunday game was delayed until 4pm so it ran into the news (which leads onto the important Sunday night lineup). Moving the second Sunday game to 4pm not only allows live coverage, but the 3.30pm pre-game telecast gives Joey, Freddy et al an extra half hour to remind everyone how good they used to be. Yes Nine’s decisions are blatantly commercial, but short of turning off our TVs, there’s nothing we can do about it.
As long as the Friday double-header remains, the Broncos will dominate the Queensland market, fans will whinge and the world will keep turning.
Hopefully the new TV deal, which could end the Friday double-header, will address the issue.