Whitehaven want cup crowd to come back and boost Cumbrian hopes

James Gordon
Whitehaven crowd against St Helens

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Whitehaven chief executive Andrew Canavan has issued a rallying cry to Cumbrian fans to get behind the club.

A crowd of 4,869 turned out to see the Championship side put up a fight against Super League champions St Helens, before going down 46-4.

It has provided a timely financial boost for Haven, who enjoyed a sensational second half of the season in 2021 to sneak in to the play-offs.

And they could turn in to a force to be reckoned with – if the fans from last Saturday return on a more regular basis.

Canavan told Love Rugby League: “It was a fantastic day at the LEL Arena, not only for the club but also for the local area.

“The team deserves all the public and private plaudits we have seen, and then some, but so do all the staff at the club and the fans that were in attendance.

“Financially, the game was a big boost to the club. This is a cup round that we never budget to make and even with splitting the gate receipts, the club will see a five-figure boost to our finances.

“Some of this will now be spent on trying to replace the long-term injuries we have suffered but with the remaining we are looking at improving the club off-the-field.

“Going forward, we know as a club we have to use Saturdays game as a catalyst to improve the club.

“If even only half of those West Cumbrians in attendance came back down the LEL on a more regular basis, the improvements we could make at the club could be massive.

“We have seen that with our current resources we are able to field a competitive Championship squad but with crowds of 1500-2000 this could be built on.

“Also with these kind of crowd levels, we could increase the work we are trying to do in the community; massively improve the facilities at the LEL Arena; assign more resources into the youth; bring reserve team rugby to the club; and increase our staffing levels which could increase our revenues even further.

“This is my plea to rugby fans in the local area.

“Not only does the team deserve to have more fans watching but with increased crowds we really could be up there, challenging in the upper echelons Championship again, like we were in the mid-noughties.”

Recipe for success in Whitehaven

Whitehaven came close to promotion to Super League in 2004, losing the National League 1 Grand Final to Leigh after extra time.

The following season, they finished top of the table, before going down to Castleford in the Grand Final.

Under Steve McCormack, Whitehaven averaged crowds of just under 1,800 in 2004 and grew that to 2,143 in 2005, with several crowds over 3,000.

A crowd of 6,154 watched their play-off victory over Castleford.

Their home games so far in 2022 have seen a crowd high of 1,795 against Cumbrian rivals Barrow, and a low of 764 against Dewsbury.

In their eight games in front of crowds last season after COVID restrictions were lifted, Whitehaven averaged 828.

They have won two games in the Championship this season and travel to Halifax on Sunday.

MORE: In numbers: Challenge Cup sixth round attendances