Regional is way to go for Monday League

TONIGHT, from suburban Belmore Oval in Sydney, Monday night footy will take on a totally different appearance.

The Bulldogs have taken this clash against the Storm back to their former home ground as part of their 80th birthday celebrations.

And the Dogs will be there again in round 20 when they play the Sharks.

Almost certainly the fanatic Bulldogs supporters will generate a tangible atmosphere, and what a change that will be from some of the drab, desolate TV back drops we have come to expect.

And don't be surprised if the smaller ground-bigger crowd venues are the future of this perplexing NRL timeslot.

Apart from the result, most interest tonight will be on the attendance.

The ground record of 27,804 was set back in 1992, but since its redevelopment as the Bulldogs' training headquarters in 2011, the capacity is back to 25,000.

Crowd-wise, Monday night football has become a gigantic headache for the NRL.

Not that stadiums are being filled to the rafters for many games, but 14,126 as the biggest crowd of the season is poor, to say the least.

And 3978 as the smallest is pathetic.

That is why a concerted push has begun to take Monday night games out of the big smoke and into the regional cities.

Discussions have apparently been held between the 16 NRL club chief executives, and while no carte-blanche approval has been sought, most have given the green light.

If it did happen, each club would need to host one regional Monday night game next season.

Obviously some financial consideration to clubs would be required from the NRL, or the host broadcaster, to avert issues with contracted stadiums and club members.

Hopefully that would not be a major stumbling block.

But most promising is the fact that Fox Sports, which hold the rights to Monday night football, is keen to take up the challenge.

Fox, like the fans, is miffed at the lack of atmosphere generated by the poor crowds attending Monday night games.

The problem is particularly critical in Sydney.

Allianz Stadium, in the heart of the city, has averaged crowds of 8500 on a Monday night for the past two years, while ANZ Stadium, with a capacity of 83,500, is averaging a ghost town-like 12,500 for the same period.

I shudder to think how many next Monday night's game, between the Tigers and Eels, will draw at the cavernous ANZ Stadium.

While Grafton, Lismore or Tamworth would probably not attract more than that ANZ Stadium average, at least the appetite of dyed-in-the-wool country fans would be sated.

Poor Monday night crowds and a game declining in regional areas are among worrying issues facing the NRL.

This enterprising proposal can help reinvigorate both.

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