It attracted $650,000 over three years from ATEED, the
Auckland Council's economic and international events agency,
but netball's first Fast5 tournament did not attract the
objective of that sponsorship money - visitors.
Both ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic
Development) and Netball New Zealand argue that the
short-form, quick-fire, amended-rules version of the game has
a solid future but that wasn't really borne out by the
numbers that turned up to the first event at Vector Arena
Precise visitor numbers brought to Auckland by the Fast5 are
almost impossible to gather but a look round the venue during
the matches produced an estimate of a total of about 1000
fans on the opening day (official figures said there were
3000). There were a few more on the Saturday though Herald on
Sunday estimates were for no more than 1500, compared to the
official attendance figure of 4200. Sunday was more
successful, with up to 4500 passing through the turnstiles
for finals day.
While it is impossible to break down attendees into locals
and visitors, the event obviously fell well short of ATEED's
target of attracting 6000 visitors to Auckland. ATEED
couldn't supply any figures, while Netball New Zealand
estimated that there were "up to 1000 visitors" from outside
Auckland. The national body added that there were around 15
fans from England and "a couple" from Australia (not helped
by their under-strength team).
Domestic visitors tend to be lower yield, as many stay with
friends and relatives. Even taking Netball New Zealand's 1000
visitors as gospel still makes it difficult to justify an
investment of over $200,000 per year. To put it in
perspective, ATEED turned down a New Zealand Football request
for $20,000 to help with the costs of the All Whites vs
Jamaica game in February, which attracted over 15,000 to Mt
Smart Stadium. The council agency also declined to assist
with the Phoenix vs Adelaide A-League match earlier this
year, which brought over 20,000 to Eden
Park and would have attracted at least as many international
visitors as the Fast5.
"We were really disappointed with Friday and Saturday,"
admits Netball NZ CEO Raelene Castle, "No matter what we
tried, we couldn't get the public to understand what it was
going to be and how it was going to look. If I'm honest, if
it was a one-off gig then, no, it wouldn't have [delivered on
the investment] and we would have been having some difficult
conversations right now.
"But both those parties [ATEED and Major Events New Zealand]
knew that it was a three-year investment and it was going to
develop. We will guarantee a much bigger crowd next year,
especially now the public understand how it works."
"Any event that gets major event funding from us has to
deliver economic benefit and visitor numbers and that is how
we do the evaluation," says ATEED CEO Brett O'Reilly.
"The target was 6000 visitors [but we] recognise it is a new
"I know each day Netball New Zealand were reviewing how they
were doing things and I think by the final day they had just
about got it right. In hindsight, we perhaps needed to start
it later on the Friday and unfortunately it clashed with
Coldplay on Saturday.
Castle is unsure why the event failed to capture the public
imagination on the first two days. The promotional spend far
exceeded similar campaigns for the Constellation Cup and Quad
Series. With the rules not finalised until August, Castle
says that may not have been long enough to educate the public
and the step from seven to five players left many fans unsure
of the product.
She added the marketing had focused on the fact it was a
world tournament and, in hindsight, they would have
emphasised the opportunity to see many of the Silver Fern
Aside from economic impact, ATEED pinpoints the chance for
Auckland to "own" an event and a concept as a huge positive.
"There are some events like V8s that deliver strong visitor
numbers so we are attracted for that reason," says O'Reilly,
"but Fast 5 gives us an opportunity to be involved with
something unique. There is no other Fast5 event around the
Castle says TV ratings for the event were "very strong" ,
with Friday and Saturday delivering audiences equivalent to
an ANZ Championship match and Sunday attracting comparable
numbers to the ANZ Championship finals series.
SKY says Fast 5 was their highest rating programme that
weekend (November 9-11) and the grand final between New
Zealand and England the weekend's most watched sport event.
The event was also broadcast across Australia and the African
continent. Viewing figures were unknown, though Netball NZ
received feedback from some Kiwis based in Northern Kenya who
enjoyed the coverage.
"I think both ATEED and [Major Events NZ] will be happy
because we got TV coverage to all of Australia and all of
Africa," says Castle.
There is no doubt the format is here to stay. Next year's
event has already been locked in (November 8-10) and Castle
hopes by 2014 there will be back-to-back Fast5 tournaments,
with a second one to be held in Australia.
- By Michael Burgess