Crowds at matches in the English Coca-Cola Rugby League have topped the sixteen million mark for the fifth consecutive season. More than 16.35m supporters attended the 1,656 matches played during 2008/09, an increase of 1% on last season.
The Rugby League continues to enjoy sustained attendance growth. Gates are currently at their highest levels for nearly 50 years and have more than doubled since the mid-eighties (7.5m in 1985/86).
The Coca-Cola Championship is set to retain its place as the 4th most watched League in Europe with a total audience of 9.9m fans. This is likely to be bettered only by the Premiership, Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga. Attendances at matches in The League’s top division rose by 5% during 2008/09 and averaged 17,891.
Meanwhile, crowds for matches in Coca-Cola League 1 and Coca-Cola League 2 averaged more than 7,500 and 4,100 respectively. These figures continue to dwarf those of comparable levels of the game in Europe’s other major footballing nations. League 1 crowds are 40% greater than those in Germany and more than three times higher than those recorded in Italy and France. League 2 crowds are almost three times those of German football and four times those of the Italian game.
In welcoming these figures Rugby League Chairman Lord Mawhinney said:
“Attracting more than sixteen million fans to matches for the fifth consecutive season is further proof that Rugby League clubs provide an outstanding experience for supporters.
“I am particularly encouraged that more and more families are going to watch their local League club.
“Given the prevailing financial climate maintaining this progress will be a significant challenge for clubs. A number of clubs are already using innovative pricing policies to enable them to continue making live football accessible to everyone in their local community.”
The Rugby League’s ‘Enjoy the Match’ campaign, which aims to eliminate abusive language and aggressive behaviour in family areas of stadia, has prompted a significant rise in attendance in these areas. Between August and December 2008 Rugby League clubs recorded a 12% increase in family areas.