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How the 2024 Challenge Cup final attendance compares this century

Crowd figure shown on the big screen at Wembley

Wigan Warriors took home their 21st Challenge Cup trophy this weekend after comfortably beating Warrington Wolves 18-8 at Wembley Stadium.

A lot was made of what the attendance would turn out to be, after dwindling attendances since, particularly, 2016.

With that in mind, we rank where 2024’s attendance compares with other attendances in the 21st century.

One thing to note is that from 2000 to 2006, games were played away from Wembley, as the new stadium was under construction.

Therefore, attendances were capped to the lower capacities of the replacement stadiums, namely Twickenham, Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium.

The 2024 edition had an attendance of 64,845, as announced during the game.

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Leigh Leopards lift the Challenge Cup trophy after victory over Hull Kingston Rovers in the final


How the 2024 Challenge Cup final attendance compares to other 21st-century attendances

Compared to the non-Wembley days

As previously mentioned, there were seven finals away from Wembley to start the century, as the new Wembley was being built.

That meant,unlike today, where the capacity of Wembley is 90,000, crowds were capped at lower numbers due to using slightly smaller stadiums.

Despite this, the 2024 attendance was lower than all but one of the attendances from these years.

In 2000, the first final (excluding replays) away from Wembley for 55 years saw fans packed into Murrayfield, Edinburgh.

The crowd, 67, 247, was higher than the current official attendance of the stadium, and higher than any of the thirteen rugby union World Cup matches it has held there.

St Helens Paul Wellens celebrates as Martin Gleeson goes over for his second try in the 2002 Challenge Cup final at Murayfield

Credit: Imago Images

It was also a higher attendance than any football match played in Scotland since the 1989 Scottish Cup final.

The second one there, in 2002, saw a slightly smaller crowd of 62,140, which was the lowest of this century until 2018.

In 2001 and 2006, numbers of 68,250 and 65,187 were achieved at Twickenham, home of England rugby union.

Three in a row were played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, however, and the best numbers of this period were acheived there: 71,212, 73,734 and 74,213: a steady increase year of year, suggesting that this could, potentially, have made a good long-term home for the event.

Compared to the new Wembley years

Castleford celebrate Daryl Clark's try at Wembley in the Challenge Cup final

Credit: Imago Images

Apart from Covid years, and the game played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (which has a capacity of around 62,000), this was the third-lowest attendance since moving back to Wembley permanently.

The 2020 final between Leeds Rhinos and Salford Red Devils was, for obvious reasons, played in front of zero fans, while the 2021 edition between Castleford Tigers and St Helens was a ‘tester event’, and one of the very first sporting events in the country to be allowed fans back into attendance.

General view during the national anthem of the 2021 Challenge Cup final

Credit: Imago Images

This was a sell-out at the capped-attendance of 40,000.

2018, between Catalans Dragons and Warrington Wolves, saw a crowd of just 50,672 – by far the lowest Wembley attendance in normal circumstances, leading many to lament Catalans’ involvement.

It is, however, important to note that the 2007 final between St Helens and Catalans saw a crowd of 84,241, the first back at Wembley.

2019, Warrington v St Helens, then saw a crowd of 62,717, before the 2023 final – the first ‘normal’ post-Covid game at Wembley – saw Hull KR and Leigh entertain in front of 58,213.

Therefore, this year’s number of 64,845 is the highest since 2017, when Hull FC and Wigan played in front of 68,525.

Previous to that, every attendance was at least 76,000, meaning there has been a significant drop-off.

In fact, the highest attendance of the century was 85,217 as Warrington Wolves beat Leeds Rhinos in 2010 – over 20,000 more than we saw for this year.

It’s sad to see the difference in numbers to those during the late noughties and early 2010s, but it is promising that the numbers are up from any of the most recent Challenge Cup finals.

Source: Statista

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