With an average attendance of just 3,704 in the sixth round of the Challenge Cup, does the campaign need a new, fresh burst of life?
The weekend’s fixtures had a total attendance of just 29,630 across eight fixtures, including some of the game’s leading names. But with a overall attendance likely to be seen at a single NRL or Championship football game, something has gone wrong.
Over the same weekend, Australia’s NRL saw an average attendance of 18,006 in round 10 – a total of 144,051 fans across the globe.
Granted, the NRL is much bigger than rugby league in England, but the great Challenge Cup’s dying attendance is clear evidence that the game is in danger.
The lowest attendance of the round saw Widnes Vikings host 2017 champions Leeds Rhinos with a crowd of 1,865 at the Halton Stadium. The most promising attendance was at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, with 6,507 fans watching Toronto Wolfpack in their first sixth round fixture. But that’s still almost a 3,000 decline from Warrington’s average attendance across April and March (9,401).
Likewise, Catalans Dragons hosted League One’s Whitehaven, with a crowd of 2,533. The Perpignan-based side saw an average attendance of 8,048 in April and March – Credit to Whitehaven, who were believed to have brought around one-hundred fans.
The Wembley finals have also observed a decrease across times, with 2017’s clash between Hull FC and Wigan being the first fixture to fall below 70,000 since 2006 (68,525).
The spark of the cup is slowly disappearing, and the RFL need to take a closer look at fixing this problem before it’s too late.
This piece isn’t pointing fingers at anyone; especially clubs, who work extra hard to attract fans to the cup clashes. But the excitement has, somewhat, depleted.
Highlight of the weekend off the field came from the Wire, who promoted free tickets to Canadian passport holders to watch the Wolfpack in their first ever sixth round fixture, and whilst a somewhat niche market, still a promotion that caught the eyes of fans.
BBC Sport’s latest project of airing early rounds of the cup with just one camera has received nothing but praise since it’s invention last year, but more clearly needs to be done to get fans inside the grounds supporting their side all the way to final.
So, what must the game do to increase attendances and bring the cup back to life? Let us know the comments below.