By Brian Lowe Date: 24/5/18
Don’t expect to necessarily see a jam-packed Sports Authority Field in Denver for the Rugby League Football International Challenge because for starters, seats in the upper deck of the stadium won’t be sold unless they are needed.
England is set to square off against New Zealand at the famous Mile High stadium on Saturday, June 23 in what promoters are billing as a variation of American football that they hope will appeal to domestic sports fans.
Mile High is home to the NFL’s three-time Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. It has a seating capacity of 76,000 and is almost always a sellout for NFL games. It’s believed the top deck seats somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people.
It’s understood that ticket sales started reasonably well with a good deal of initial interest, although since then sales reportedly have tapered off a bit, which is not all that unusual.
Ticket prices for this rugby league matchup shouldn’t be an issue as they start at $15 and go up to $99, prices that most sports fans would more than likely consider reasonable, especially when compared with other professional sports.
What is more of an issue perhaps is getting the word out. Letting people know the game is on.
The game’s Australian promoters, Moore Sports International, say the Broncos are supportive of the match and have been using email and social media to give their members a heads up about it.
Several short videos have been produced highlighting past clashes between the English and Kiwi teams. However, those clips can only be seen when visitors go to the upcoming events schedule on the Sports Authority Field website and then click on a link to the event itself.
So, unless you are specifically searching for tickets for that game you will be oblivious to the videos.
Sports Authority Field is promoting it as a ‘rugby’ event as opposed to a rugby league match, although that probably has more to do with not wanting to confuse people than anything else.
Rugby union has a foothold in Denver whereas league does not.
Likewise, local Denver media did a story or two on the upcoming rugby game when the match was officially announced back in late February, but there hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot of publicity about it since then, certainly not in other parts of the country.
The promoters say they’re not really aiming at expatriate league fans, or even union fans for that matter.
They want to expose the ‘rugby league’ experience to as many Americans as possible and to do that they’ve opted to promote the event using American football terminology that people here in the States will get.
No pads. No blocking. Six downs.
It’s being pitched as 13 running backs playing against 13 linebackers with no helmets or pads and switching from offense to defense when the ball is turned over.
If you’re not up to speed on American football, running backs are renowned for taking the ball up hard on offense, while linebackers typically lay on big hits when stopping those same running backs on defense.
The thinking behind this form of talking up the game is that hopefully it will entice football fans to come along and watch a legitimate collision sport at a time of year when there’s usually no football.
Whether that does the trick remains to be seen.