Blues blame venue for Apia flop

The Blues chief executive Michael Redman has blamed the small venue for the flop of the first Super Rugby match in Samoa and cast doubt on a return to the Pacific nation due to the economics of playing there.

The Blues edged the Queensland Reds 34-29 in Apia on Friday but the 8000-capacity stadium was less than half-full, prompting criticism on social media that ticket prices were too expensive.

Outspoken former Samoa international Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu told New Zealand radio that the Blues management were "ignorant" and "arrogant" in their approach to the game in the developing country.

Redman conceded that organisers had got pricing wrong for the tickets, which ranged from $15 for general admission to $250 for premium seats, but said it was "difficult" to get a yield out of the venue.

"The model needs to change in terms of the funding provided by government and commercial partners to shift that burden of costs away from the gate," he said.

"The reality is the economics up there are extremely challenging especially from a venue point of view where you have a capacity of about 8400, half of which is general admission.

"That general admission needs to be at the lowest point possible and for us that was $15 and it still didn't sellout."

Super Rugby's debut in Fiji was better received last year, with a sell-out crowd watching the Chiefs and the Crusaders in Suva.

The teams' return to Fiji two weeks ago drew another bumper crowd of 17,000.

"We're not privy for the financials of the Fiji game but the obvious thing that jumps out is they've got a stadium that can take between 17,000 and 20,000 people," said Redman.

"That means you can spread the pricing. I know they also received generous government support."

The Blues spent "well north" of NZ$500,000 ($356,000) to put on the match in Samoa but Redman suggested the model would need to change for his team to commit to returning.

"We'd dearly love to (go back)," he said.

"It has been overshadowed by the ticket price issue but in the end the financial risk sits with us.

"From our point of view we will discuss with our partners up there (about) going back but I think all parties would agree the model has to be different and whether there is a sustainable model or not we're not sure.

"But we're certainly pleased we tried."