“Big Games” in rugby league?

Harlequins rugby union side enjoyed huge success with their “Big Game” against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham. The Quins managed to sell out the 50,000 reduced capacity for the event, and are already talking about an 82,000 complete sell out when they do the same next year. It was a bold step to take and it certainly paid off; perhaps this is something that rugby league clubs will try out in the near future.nnOf course the engage Super League has a similar event already with the Magic Weekend scheduled for Murrayfield. But while the Magic Weekend is an RFL event this would be something organised by the club involved for its own benefit. The question to ask is whether any rugby league club could enjoy similar success, because the exercise might well be pointless if they couldn’t.nnLeeds Rhinos have done a similar thing in the past, hosting the World Club Challenge at Elland Road and drawing nearly 40,000 people. The WCC though is an event which attracts a certain amount of neutral support, while an ordinary Super League game couldn’t. Yet, with extensive marketing perhaps a game against Bradford could bring a large crowd to Elland Road. St Helens could attempt a similar thing by hosting Wigan or Warrington at Anfield or Goodison Park.nnHarlequins could follow the example of the rugby union branch of their club and de-camp to Twickenham, while Salford could be looking to City of Manchester Stadium, maybe even Old Trafford, while Celtic Crusaders could look to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium or even Millennium Stadium. However, such a move may be ambitious for these clubs given their relatively low attendances. If the Grand Final can’t sell out Old Trafford since its increase in capacity, or the Magic Weekend the Millennium Stadium, is it really worth Salford or Celtic trying?nnLes Catalans Dragons are one club who do have plans to stage such a fixture when they welcome Warrington to Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium, a ground which holds just under 56,000. It’s ambitious certainly, and the stadium is unlikely to be even half full, but the Dragons can justify their decision by their home attendances of nearly 10,000 for big games.nnFor the other clubs though there is no obvious candidate to host such a game, while for some their usual home venue is perfectly adequate. For example, Castleford and Wakefield could only really use Elland Road; Hull KR’s only real option is, unthinkably, the KC Stadium; while Warrington would have to look either east to Manchester or west to Liverpool. There would be little point in Bradford, Huddersfield, Hull or Wigan looking for an alternative venue.nnThe idea is one that could be used in the Championship. Last year Gateshead staged a home game at Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park. They drew a crowd of 1,751, more than a thousand more than their average of 490. However, there are few clubs for which this would be worthwhile. Clubs such as Batley or Dewsbury could play at Headlingley or the Galpharm Stadium, but it’s not likely they could draw even a one-off crowd big enough to justify the move.nnWith the exception then of a few clubs, perhaps this is one idea that wouldn’t work. Leeds and Saints could try it out, while the Catalans will be trying it out. Should, for example, Celtic Crusaders manage a few decent crowds at Brewery Field, a game at Swansea might be justified, but that’s a long shot. Still, it’s something to think about as clubs fight to increase or maintain the public’s interest.

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