Cardiff Dragons London Pulse netball

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 25: General view of play during the Vitality Netball Superleague match between Celtic Dragons and London Pulse at the Sport Wales National Centre on March 25, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images for England Netball)

Cardiff Dragons Hoping For Arena Fever As They Get Ready For Big Move

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By Graham Thomas

Cardiff Dragons believe they can follow the lead of London Pulse and attract a diverse new fan base by switching home venues to a bigger venue.

Dragons are away to Pulse on Saturday at the Copper Box Arena, with the Welsh club having already played their final home game at their regular House of Sport location in Cardiff.

Their remaining two home matches of the Super League season – against Leeds Rhinos and Team Bath – have been switched to the bigger-capacity Utilita Arena in the centre of the city.

While the Dragons’ ambitions to make the play-offs this season may be over, they hope a move to a bigger home will boost their pulling power in the future.

“London Pulse play at the Copper Box Arena, which is an amazing, iconic venue that was memorably part of the London Olympics,” said Dragons chief executive Vicki Sutton.

“London is a very cosmopolitan city and they attract a very diverse audience, but Cardiff has also become very diverse and we feel we can tap into that potential as we look to grow our supporter base.

“It’s hard to compare us to other teams and cities, but we feel that by playing in a bigger venue we can really start to drive our fan base upwards.”

Vicki Sutton

Cardiff Dragons CEO Vicki Sutton.

Only two years ago, Dragons were playing at the Sport Wales Centre in Cardiff with a capacity of around 500.

They moved last year to the House of Sport, where the capacity is just over 1,000, and this season they have sold out the majority of their matches.

Now, they are on the move again to the Utilita Arena for the games against Rhinos on June 8 and Bath on June 15, where the capacity for netball is close to 3,000.

“I don’t think we will sell-out, but I would be really happy if we get 2,000 fans to both of those games,” added Sutton.

“The Dragons are very well supported by people who already play netball. But we want to attract people who have maybe never been to performance netball before.

“It’s great entertainment, we have great female role models, and it’s live and unscripted. Anything can happen.

“So, we are hoping there is a diverse audience out there who would like to come into a big city centre location, maybe have a drink and bite to eat beforehand, and then come along and watch one of the very few professional female sports teams in Wales.”

Pulse began life in 2016, playing at small venues around London. But the franchise have enjoyed huge growth since they moved to their permanent home at Olympic Park in Stratford, which has a capacity of 7,000.

Pulse are currently third in the Super League table and having lost just two games all season, they have already clinched their place in the play-offs amongst the top four.

Back in March, Dragons were beaten 37-52 by Pulse at the House of Sport.

The Dragons currently lie eighth in the table, but the mid-section is congested, and four teams are separated by only four points.

A victory for coach Jill McIntosh and her team could lift the Dragons to within a point of fifth place, depending on other results.

One of the other similarities shared by Pulse’s Copper Box Arena and the Ultilita Arena is the ability it offers the teams to be on the venue’s own platform when it comes to marketing.

A glance at the Utilita Arena website shows the Dragons are up there on the “hot and tending” page for tickets, alongside Liam Gallagher, Girls Aloud, The Four Tops and Romesh Ranganathan.

“The traffic on that website is significant and it’s great to see us next to the likes of Liam Gallagher and others. We’re in good company,” added Sutton.

“Like the other shows, we are offering great entertainment for people. We realise that there is still a cost of living crisis, so we have tried to keep ticket prices as low as possible and we think we are offering great value for money.

“You don’t have to wait for 45 or maybe 90 minutes for a goal, like in some sports. There’s a goal every 10 to 12 seconds!”

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