Frustrated rugby fans lead to a dramatic drop in attendance

The Azzurri's recent struggles have lowered ticket sales

ROME—Italy’s disappointing 2017 Six Nations campaign has lead to a sizable decrease in ticket sales at the capital’s Stadio Olimpico. The Azzurri have lost their last eleven games in the competition and have not been victorious since beating Scotland 22-19 in February 2015.

51,777 fans turned out in Rome last Saturday to watch the always passionately contested, Alpine clash between Italy and France. The result ended in an 18-40 victory for the visitors, but perhaps the most worrying statistic, more so than the home side’s 66 percent tackle rate, is the fact that the attendance was down by 23 percent in comparison to the corresponding fixture in 2015.

Sadly for Italian rugby, it wasn’t just the fixture against France that has suffered from reduced ticket sales. This year’s 47,653 average attendance is the worst in the competition’s history since the national team moved its home from the smaller Stadio Flaminio to the Stadio Olimpico. In the past five years the average attendance in the capital has always surpassed the 60 thousand mark, however, the team’s recent failings have lead to a notable decline in sales.

It is critical that the Italian Rugby Federation address this slump in fan attendance as soon as possible. Headcoach Connor O’Shea and captain Sergio Parisse continue to speak positively after each defeat and are quick to reiterate that they are in the midst of a long-term project.

However, it is clear that the side need to back up their words with results on the pitch, as rugby is in danger of being pushed further into the peripheral of Italian sport.

The Azzurri will take on Scotland in Edinburgh, the site of their last Six Nations victory, on Saturday, where they will be looking to end on a positive note. A win will go some way to silencing the growing number of critics who have been calling for Georgia’s inclusion in the competition at the expense of the Italians.