Rugby union is in danger of dying out in Australia.
Participation in the sport has been collapsing — thousands of players reportedly left clubs last year — but new research now puts the number of active players at just 55,000, making it the 26th most popular sport in the country, far behind activities widely considered much more marginal including lawn bowls, darts, and ten pin bowling.
Rugby participation has fallen an enormous 63% from 148,000 in 2001, according to research firm Roy Morgan. Cricket participation has fallen by a comparatively small 10% in the same period, and still boasts around 377,000 players.
The company’s research confirms soccer as the nation’s No.1 participation sport, with 623,000 Australians regularly playing the beautiful game.
Despite its TV deals, significant marketing support, and high profile players, rugby union has never been a leading sport in Australia. The professional game is in turmoil at the moment, with reports that one of the country’s Super Rugby sides – most likely the Western Force, the ACT Brumbies or the Melbourne Rebels – will need to be axed. The Super Rugby competition has become complex and spread too thin, disappointing fans and seeing crowd attendance levels falling.
The Roy Morgan research also notes participation in competitive sports has been falling across the country, with people turning to non-competitive forms of exercise like jogging and going to the gym rather than activities where there is a winner and a loser.
Here’s the full list. Find your favourite sport below (you’ll have to scroll a long way to find rugby):
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