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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Reflecting On The Eagles 2015 Home Matches (Updated)

Barring anything unforeseen and unlikely, the Eagles have concluded their 2015 home slate. Traditionally the Eagles haven't gone on tour during the November test period during World Cup years and this year is no different. So with that in mind we thought we'd look back at the four home tests and their impact off the pitch. (UPDATE: We completely spaced the Harlequins match. We've added it below.)

San Jose (vs. Samoa, Canada vs. Japan)

With Avaya Stadium opening up in the rugby hotbed of Northern California it only made sense that U.S.A. Rugby would put a match in the stadium this year and with the Pacific Nations Cup also bringing in fans of Samoa, Canada, and Japan hopes were high that there would be a solid turnout. While it wasn't a sold-out stadium it was a strong crowd of 10,000 fans who were passionate and made it seem like a bigger crowd than it was.

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In comparison to last year it was double the crowd that turned out to the StubHub Center last year. True, this year was a double-header and a World Cup year but it was still a great sign that the U.S. were able to double the crowd. If we had to guess, and this is purely a guess, we'd think that the 10k at the stadium was probably enough to come close to breaking even. It was also the 9th largest crowd in Eagles history.

Avaya Stadium was also in a good location. There are three airports nearby and transportation to the stadium was relatively easy. There was also a place for fans to tailgate before the match. Overall, this was a win-win. Maybe a similar crowd wouldn't be had next year or the year after but this year it made a solid fit.

Bonney Field (vs. Japan, Fiji vs. Samoa)

For the second year in a row the U.S. played a Pacific Nations Cup match at Bonney Field and the second year in a row they came away with a win. After the match the players and the coaching staff weren't dismissive of the idea of playing in Sacramento again but outside of results it wasn't a bad weekend for U.S.A. Rugby. It was reported that 11,000 fans turned out to the match which was more than came to the match against Canada in 2014. Bonney Field was expanded this year and is a good venue for the Eagles.

The attendance was bolstered by the fact that there were both large Samoan and large Fijian crowds that turned out. It was noticeable that not as many fans stayed for the U.S.-Japan match which was disappointing but there was still a large American turnout once again. Also, with a year under the belt Bonney Field was much better amenity wise. If the Eagles are looking for a smaller venue that would likely generate a solid crowd--but not a sellout--no matter what the opponent and a cheaper rental, Bonney Field works.

PPL Park (vs. Harlequins)

There were high hopes that this match would be similar to the Maori All Blacks match in 2013. Unfortunately it wasn't. Sandwiched between other big matches this match was the lowest drawing of the summer with 6,000 fans during out. In the context of things it's not that bad of a turnout but organizers were probably hoping for larger. It's understandable that people from the East Coast might be saving their money to head to England for the World Cup.

The lesson to be learned from this match is that if the U.S. faces a club team it's probably best if they are put in a stadium that holds 10k or less. That way organizers can have a boisterous crowd while also maximizing output to revenue.

Soldier Field (vs. Australia)

There was no way that this was going to a be a replica of the Eagles-All Blacks match. That match was a special one off that brought in the biggest name in World Rugby, a passionate ex-pat fan base, and was a celebration of American rugby. Still, it has to be disappointing for organizers that they were only able to draw in roughly a third of what the Eagles-All Blacks drew at 23, 212. Hopefully that is close to the break even number otherwise U.S.A. Rugby could risk losing all the profits from the All Blacks match. From what we understand it is close to the break even number.

Maybe the lesson to be learned from this match is that you can't catch lightening twice. Maybe a different venue like the StubHub Center, with seating of up to 27k and a large Australian ex-pat community, would have been better. Even though the Eagles haven't drawn well there before a big event is often what it takes to gain attention in Southern California. One of the problems with this type of match is that they don't really make good venues in cities that are marketable that hold about 40,000. Time will tell whether this stops the likes of South Africa making a visit next but we don't think it will.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it was a good summer. Attendance was up, having matches on ESPN3 was a good thing (although not as good as being on ESPN itself), and fans were engaged. We saw a lot of fans wearing Eagles gear which was outstanding to see. Maybe this year was a World Cup bump but more likely it is a trend upward of fans heading out to matches. It's a trend that looks to be bleeding into Canada as well with a couple of solid matches. Both U.S.A. Rugby and Rugby Canada are getting better (still some hiccups) at putting on matches and this year was just a next step in the right direction.


  1. The Stub Hub center should never hold a test again. It has failed multiple times.

    I think part of the reason the Australia turn out was not strong is that a lot of folks are going to go to the UK for the WC so why spend the money for this match?

    I am concerned that USAR is settling into Chicago as the go to venue. If there is another big match next year how many folks want to go to the same venue for a second or third time? I love Chicago but a new destination would be nice. The "iconic" (do we have to be told that ad nauseum) Soldiers Field is old and not that special. And the beer selection sucks! Start selling out MLS stadiums and reserve the NFL venues for unique occasions.

    1. Soldier Field was renovated in 2003/04. The only thing remaining from the original stadium is the facade, the rest of the place is new. It was even delisted as a National Historical Landmark.

    2. Regarding the attendence for the Quin's game: Although Philly is a "central" location between Boston and Richmond, there is no joy making that drive on a summer Sunday. I-95 is a virtual parking lot on Sundays and who wants to spend twice the time driving to a match on a "school night"?