Super League sides report impressive ticket sales for Round 1

It’s now officially one week until the Super League season starts and as that whistle blow draws closer the anticipation and excitement of fans heightens.

That was certainly the case for Championship sides this past weekend as impressive attendances were recorded across the seven fixtures, with five of the seven games all smashing the 2,000 attendance mark with one almost reaching 5,000.

The two fixtures that didn’t see 2,000 in attendance were London Broncos hosting Batley, which still clocked a respectable 1,849, and then newly promoted Swinton Lions who saw just 877 as they hosted Newcastle Thunders.

With Bradford’s impressive gate of 4,870 though it still meant an average attendance across the second division of just under 2,350.

Whilst the Championship saw a total attendance of 16,434 there will some glimmer of hope that a single Super League game could replicate that this week, with teams so far reporting very impressive ticket sales and others utilising pre-match entertainment to lure numbers in.

Tickets are thin on the ground now for Hull KR’s opener against Wigan Warriors, live on Channel 4, with the club reporting impressive daily sales just nine days out.

Both Leigh and Warrington are providing live bands, similar to KR, in an effort to attract a wider audience for their home openers.

All this leads to the question of whether the round one attendance record of recent years can be broken.

Sadly gone are the days of 15,000 average attendances and with the cost of living crisis and a post-pandemic world, it’s a tough gig to sell out stadiums.

However with this reported bounce in ticket sales ahead of round one we’ve analysed the past three seasons attendance figures for the opening round of fixtures to gauge if any records will be broken.

Some games, such as KR hosting Wigan, are repeat matchups of round one fixtures from 2022, 2020 and 2019 therefore they can be more easily predicted.

However teams like Leigh will be a huge wildcard, especially given their heavy entertainment schedule for the evening, but for reference here’s each of the last three seasons (2021 excluded) attendance figures for round one.

2022 Round One Attendances
St Helens vs Catalans Dragons – 13,178
Castleford Tigers vs Salford Red Devils – 10,050
Hull KR vs Wigan Warriors – 9,044
Leeds Rhinos vs Warrington Wolves – 14,135
Toulouse Olympique vs Huddersfield Giants – 5,238
Wakefield Trinity vs Hull FC – 6,148
Average – 9,632
Total – 57,792

2020 Round One Attendances
Wigan Warriors vs Warrington Wolves – 15,040
Hull KR vs Wakefield Trinity – 8,492
St Helens vs Salford Red Devils – 12,008
Catalans Dragons vs Huddersfield Giants – 8,254
Leeds Rhinos vs Hull FC – 19,500
Average – 12,658
Total – 63,294

2019 Round One Attendances
St Helens vs Wigan – 16,508
Castleford vs Catalans – 7,494
Huddersfield vs Salford – 5,387
Hull KR vs Hull FC – 12,100
Warrington vs Leeds – 13,098
London vs Wakefield – 2,149
Average – 9,456
Total – 56,736

Obviously the lack of St Helens playing and therefore only five fixtures means that the mammoth total of 63,924 from 2020 won’t be surpassed, with that 2020 average being boosted by a Headingley fixture.

Ironically that 2020 figure, the largest of the three seasons, was the only one across the sample to have just five games but seeing the three best attended sides of recent years all at home cultivated a perfect storm.

Instead 2023 sees Leeds travel to the Halliwell Jones, a repeat of the 2019 game that saw over 13,000 turn up, which will surely be the Wire’s goal to beat. As will Hull KR’s total of 9,044 that turned up at Craven Park last year to watch them host Wigan, 2023 being a case of the same but under new coaching.

None of the last three seasons have seen Hull FC play at home in round one, however they return to the MKM for their opener this year and the beginning of their new era under Tony Smith has triggered plenty of membership purchases. The club passed 7,500 members just last week and with the Black and White averaging almost 11,000 in 2022, then a figure notching 12,000 will be a realistic target.

As referenced Leigh could be somewhat of a wildcard, however they’d be expected to outperform the 2,149 that London Broncos managed in their 2019 opening day game, given that over 7,000 turned up for their last competitive game, which saw them secure Super League status.

Wakefield could also benefit from a new-look coaching staff and a successful pre-season with three wins under Mark Applegarth, however their allocation of Catalans would suggest Belle Vue may be a difficult place to pack out given the logistics of travelling French fans.

With two games that look sure-fire to surpass the 10,000 mark at the Halliwell Jones and the MKM, another at Craven Park that looks set for almost 10,000 given 2022 data and then two home teams with plenty of excitement surrounding them then there’s a real chance that average of 10,000 can be surpassed.

It would be huge for Super League to make such a statement in attendance figures, especially without champions St Helens partaking in their round one fixture, and it hopefully will be an opening round to remember.

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