Editor’s column: It’s not the same without fans

James Donaldson (25) of Leeds Rhinos celebrates the win at Full Time following a 13-12 win over Huddersfield Giants.

We’re in a very privileged position as journalists that we can attend matches that are missing a key ingredient – fans.

No doubt the four Super League games on Thursday and Friday would have been even greater spectacles with the backdrop of a packed out stadium, absorbing the excitement and drama.

Instead, being live at the game is an unusual experience. Despite all the drama, all you can hear is the shouts from the pitch – though I should acknowledge that Huddersfield were cheered on all the way by a passionate lady in their director’s box in the narrow defeat to Leeds, with shouts of jubilation and frustration throughout making you yearn for a few thousand more around her.

At least hearing the shouts from the pitch does provide some insight like never before – I particularly enjoyed hearing Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s regular barks from right centre in Hull KR’s tremendous effort against St Helens, “F***ing hell Parcell!” a particular highlight.

In many ways, it’s a shame that when Matty Ashton slid over for Warrington’s winner over Castleford on Thursday that fans at home couldn’t hear the Wolves’ players reaction, but instead you had the artificial fake crowd noise, the novelty of which is now wearing off.

Credit must go to the way that clubs and Super League are managing the process. It’s a pretty seamless experience for press – temperature check on the way in to collect accreditation, and then a clear route to the makeshift press boxes, where tables have been added across the usual seating to accommodate the needs of Sky Sports.

There is no direct contact with players or coaches – with even those at the ground having to attend the virtual press conference via Zoom.

You can also hear virtually all of the Sky Sports commentary from your position, and it was interesting to see a couple of players note that over the weekend.

Speaking of fans, that’s one very good reason for keeping Toronto in Super League.

They’ve been on a PR offensive over recent weeks, with Brian McDermott appearing on Sky Sports over the weekend, as they try to convince the Super League clubs that they are worth another go in 2021.

Whatever your opinion of the Wolfpack, what you can’t take away is the thousands of people that have attended matches, engaged with both the club and rugby league.

For all the talk of finances and logistics that can be determined in the boardroom, there are two key things that rugby league needs – more fans and more players. If those both grow, the rest will follow.

This Twitter thread is worth a look.

It’s surprising to see Simon Woolford leaving Huddersfield at the end of the season. The Giants have been very unfortunate to lose by one-point on three occasions since the restart.

The nature of a salary cap sport means it can take coaches time to get the squad where they want it, and it seemed that Woolford was just about getting there after two years at the helm.

It will be interesting to see where the Giants go next.

About James Gordon 7109 Articles
Love Rugby League editor. Founded the website back in 2005. Worked with a range of clubs and sponsors during that time. Also commentates for BBC.

1 Comment

  1. What is sport without fans? just another business trying to survive.
    Players work their way to the top to show of the skills and reap the admiration of the club fans for putting their heart and soul in to that club.
    It must be demoralising for some players who play to the crowd with their cheeky swipes etc. to get the cheers and boo’s from fans.
    You see this in the movie and top paid sport stars, when the highlight is of them and they are desperate to get some airtime. I know Rugby League players are not in the same bracket as these narcissistic individuals who need attention every minute, but they do need the pep up from the fans when things are going bad.

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