2019 Championship attendances up 31%, as 12 clubs report increases

James Gordon

Attendances in the Championship this season were 31% up on last season, with an average of 2,489 compared to 1,899.

With Bradford, York and Widnes joining the division, which increased to 14 teams, the aggregate attendance grew by 79%, although from more fixtures (189 compared to 138).

Toronto Wolfpack and York City Knights each attracted attendances significantly above their regular season average for last weekend’s Play-Off fixtures against Toulouse Olympique and Featherstone Rovers respectively, and live coverage of both matches on Sky Sports took the cumulative viewing figures for Championship matches this season past 1.3m – with three of the top five viewing figures for the season coming in the last two weeks.

Toronto’s gate of 9,325 for their first versus second clash against Toulouse was the second best in the Wolfpack’s three-season history, as the Canadian club secured home advantage in the Betfred Championship Grand Final on Saturday October 5 – the Million Pound Game – which will also be shown live on Sky Sports.

York concluded another season of impressive progress following their promotion from Betfred League 1 in 2018 with an attendance of 3,222 at Bootham Crescent, helped by a four-figure following from Featherstone – who now travel to Toulouse in Sunday night’s final eliminator with the winners to provide the opposition to Toronto in the Million Pound Game at Lamport Stadium on Saturday week.

List of Championship average attendances:

Toronto Wolfpack – 6,521

Bradford Bulls – 4,339

Widnes Vikings – 4,321

Leigh Centurions – 3,259

Toulouse Olympique – 2,488

Featherstone Rovers – 2,235

York City Knights – 2,125

Halifax RLFC – 1,761

Barrow Raiders – 1,389

Batley Bulldogs – 1,347

Dewsbury Rams – 1,231

Swinton Lions – 1,078

Sheffield Eagles – 944

Rochdale Hornets – 795

Ahead of the Betfred Championship and League 1 awards night, RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “The significant increases in attendances, especially in the Betfred Championship, underline the loyal support our clubs continue to receive from the communities in which they are so important, and the growing appeal of the competition.

“It’s been especially pleasing this season to have so many more matches at this level televised by Sky Sports, and the viewing figures have been encouraging, especially for Sunday night fixtures whether at the Summer Bash in the spring, or for the Play-Offs at Leigh and Toronto in the last couple of weeks.

“We’ve also continued to invest significantly in broadcasting fixtures ourselves on the RFL’s Our League platform, with our membership figures now approaching 120,000, in addition to exploring the opportunities offered by new platforms such as Twitch to reach a new, younger audience.

“We have two more exciting rounds of the Play-Offs in each competition over the next two weekends, with Newcastle Thunder, Doncaster and Oldham battling to join Whitehaven in earning promotion from League 1 to the Championship, and Toulouse facing Featherstone this Sunday night for the right to go to Toronto in the Betfred Championship Grand Final. We’ll have plenty to celebrate at the Awards Night, but also much more to anticipate.”