Lax attendance reporting evidence that standards are slipping

James Gordon
Hull fans in attendance in Castleford

Photo by Craig Cresswell/News Images

There is an increasing lack of transparency creeping in to rugby league that should be setting alarm bells sounding.

The reporting of match attendances has become sloppy and inconsistent, when it should be a basic requirement.

Attendances have been reported virtually throughout the history of the game and any excuse not to publish them is fallacy.

It appears that one justification is to prevent criticism or analysis – hiding away from data won’t stop that.

For too long, rugby league has been behind the times when it comes to data and reporting. Providing more information widens interest and the ability for analysis. There is so little rugby league played in real terms, that the rugby league that is played should be presented in as transparent and accessible way as possible.

Even in the eighth tier of English football, clubs are fined for not reporting attendance figures. The RFL shouldn’t stand for clubs not reporting attendances in their professional game.

Who are we trying to kid by not reporting attendances? Possible broadcast partners? Sponsors? Fans?

The irony is that when there is a strong weekend of attendances, we shout it from the roof tops. Because guess what, that’s life.

Freely sharing information

A former Super League chief executive told me many years ago that the way to grow is to be as open and transparent and make it as easy as possible to be a fan.

All things like this do is drive a wedge between the clubs and the people they are trying to attract.

Attendances have always been reported by League Express newspaper, though even they are now struggling to get figures. Only four of the eight Challenge Cup ties at the weekend had attendances reported on, although Leeds (7,103) and Wakefield (1,568) have since shared theirs.

Since we started doing weekly analysis pieces on attendances, other sites have started to do the same – though this basic data analysis is becoming skewed by the fact some clubs simply aren’t reporting.

The Rugby League Record Keepers’ Club are currently completing a project to detail every game of professional rugby league, and much more. Yet finding attendances for games played this year is becoming more difficult than finding attendances for games from even a hundred years ago!

Neil Ormston from RLRKC said: “The whole ethos of the Record Keepers’ Club is to freely share information about rugby league. We believe in promoting the history and heritage of the game, as well as an accurate on-going record, by making this information available to fans, the media and others.

“Clubs have, we believe, a duty of care to current and future generations to share data, and we encourage them to show due respect in doing so. It’s concerning that clubs are trying to stifle important discussions by withholding information that there’s long standing precedent in sharing.

“In order to drive engagement with fans and other stakeholders, we think they should actually be seeking to share more information, not less. We encourage fans to let clubs know that this is important to them, else we worry that we may continue to see a decline in the quantity and quality of information available to them.”

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