The chart below is divided into five year bites both for space limitations and to take out yearly fluctuations. From this an interesting trend emerges. The 1995-99 period, Super League attendances were a very ordinary 6,440. The 2000-04 went up to 7,410, then 2005-09 a record 9,370. It fell back to 8,770 between 2010-14 but the last three years (less the Super 8s in 2017) it has come back to 9,230. So they are much improved to say twenty years ago.
Clearly there has been an improvement across the board. Why has it seemly hit a ceiling? The most obvious reason is many towns have reached a saturation point that will be hard to make gains of much substance in future. The loss of Bradford was a blow as well. So what can move it along?
New clubs like Toronto could have much larger gate numbers if the public interest lifts as the standard of opposition teams improves with promotion upwards. Another club from France would be welcome but is unlikely to improve the average. If some rich billionaires do a Toronto and introduce clubs to cities such as New York, Moscow, Turin and Barcelona then that would be another chance to lift the average. Of course, cities in the UK such as Bath/Bristol could come into the mix.
In other words, if the game stays as it is regarding teams based in North English towns then now will be as good as it gets. Spreading the net wider is an obvious way forward. RL should always keep its roots in the North of England and some teams along the M62 corridor should be in the top flight. However, there is scope for expansion and that is something the game needs.
It would bring in more gate receipts and result in improved TV deals as a wider audience becomes familiar with this exciting game. Sponsorship opportunities would improve. RL is physical and the players are not that well compensated financially in comparison to other professional games. I think the attendance number highlights the need for moving Super League to another level of exposure.
|SL Attendances 1995-17|