Trial and error?
By STEVE SPINKS
JUST how many people fit into Lismore's Oakes Oval?
If you're from the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League, you would say a crowd of 10,500 packed into the sports ground for the NRL trial between Cronulla and Parramatta last Saturday night.
The Northern Star reported this week that the NRRRL estimated 9500 tickets were sold and that 1000 children under the age of 10 attended.
As successful as the event was, The Northern Star has learned that the real crowd figure was closer to 8000.
The crowd breakdown:
n 4400 tickets pre-sold.
n 1020 main grandstand tickets sold.
n 1000 children under 10 (estimated total as children under 10 were free).
n 1100 tickets for promotions.
n 800 tickets sold at the gate.
These totals made for a crowd of 8320.
However, NRRRL president Robin Harley said no official crowd figure could be properly determined and he was comfortable with the 10,500 total.
Many local sports identities disagree.
Far North Coast Cricket Council secretary John McMahon was more than a little surprised by the figure reported in The Northern Star.
"We had an official crowd for the NSW v West Indies one-day cricket match in January 1992 as 5100, and we couldn't sell another ticket," McMahon said.
"Of course, for a comfortable crowd at Oakes Oval to watch cricket everyone needs to be seated, while people can stand to watch a game of rugby league.
"But unless you're prepared to show the figures and prove them, why make these extravagant claims?"
McMahon believes inflating crowds can lead to problems for local sports when trying to attract high-profile events.
"If we had a big match and drew 5000, Cricket Australia would ask what went wrong because the league can draw 10,000," he said.
Lismore City Council events manager John Bancroft said he hadn't received any official count from the NRRRL.
"I've heard that 8500 have fitted into Oakes Oval before, but we were using this match as a guide, since the ground hasn't been full since 1992," he said.
"There's been a lot of work done since then with fences and mounds."
But Mr Bancroft doubted there was a crowd of 10,500 last Saturday night.
Former local radio broadcaster and Lismore District Sports Association member Barry Davidson believes a figure of 7500 to 8000 would be more realistic.
"The ground's changed a lot," he said.
"I reckon you could get 8000 in. But I couldn't see another 2500 getting in."