Super League Chief Executive Nigel Wood is predicting that the Stobart Super League will scale new heights in 2012 after the competition enjoyed the most successful opening week in its 17-year history.
As Super League heads for a weekend which includes the first competitive fixture at the new home of St Helens, the superbly-appointed Langtree Park, and a mouth-watering match between Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos at DW Stadium, Wood believes the sense of excitement within the sport has never been higher.
Round One of Stobart Super League was watched by a record TV audience on Sky Sports and the BBC with bumper aggregate attendances at the seven fixtures, a total swelled by massive awareness of the sport’s big kick-off.
“The television audiences, the excellent crowds and the high quality media coverage of the Stobart Super League all point to this being a very special year,” said Wood.
“The record ratings on Sky Sports are very positive and prove once again how popular the Stobart Super League competition is as a television spectacle.
“With the start of a terrific new five year broadcasting agreement with Sky, it was very pleasing that our opening televised game was the most watched sport on national television last Friday night.
“The excellent viewing figures and attendances are backed up by strong coverage in the national, regional and local newspapers, which has a media value to be worth in excess of £5 million.”
The average audience for the opening televised fixture on Sky Sports 1 last Friday, Widnes Vikings v Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, was higher than any other opening weekend televised game in the Super League era and was 75 per cent up on the average weekly audience in 2011.
In the whole of last year, only the Super League Grand Final pulled a bigger audience on Sky Sports than tuned in to see Widnes’s return to the big time on the revolutionary new fourth generation ‘i-pitch’.
Early indications from the BBC are that the new-look Super League Show was watched by more people on BBC1 and the iPlayer than ever before whilst the value of coverage of the sport’s elite competition across all other media channels exceeded all previous records.
In addition to impressive viewing figures, supporters also turned out in force for the opening weekend. A total of 73,720 people attended the seven opening round fixtures, producing an average attendance of 10,531 – an increase of 12 per cent on last season’s average attendance across Super League.
“In what were atrocious weather conditions, it shows how committed our supporters were in turning up in massive numbers for the opening weekend of the 2012 season,” added Wood.
“Congratulations must also go to all the clubs for working extremely hard to ensure every game was played over the weekend. It was a massive challenge and the commitment and dedication shown was a credit to the competition.
“With another thrilling round of matches coming up, I’m sure more people than ever before are looking forward to another exciting weekend of Stobart Super League action.”