It cannot be asserted that there has been a net loss of attending fans. I agree that the spread has shrunk and it is now concentrated in smaller pockets but I suspect if you did the maths you would see that the bigger clubs have in many respects made up for it.
How many Melbourne lads are in the Storm team ? I don't think it's very many and they have been champions twice and league leaders on another occasion before they were deducted all their league points.
Whilst it's important to develop local players it's not immediately important for success.
Of the local Hudersfield players are there not several who are England internationals. When did Lyndsay become the prophet for all future RL progress.? He was just a follower of Murdoch Didn't he run Wigan into near bankruptcy? His one big idea was Paris, how many local players were in that team? It could be argued that he ruined the rest of French RL by making them play for Paris and their local club. In just the same way by marginalising all teams not amongst the anointed in SL, it could be argued he started the slow decline of RL which we are discussing here.
The SL might be a marginally successul operation but the neutering of all the other teams has resulted a large loss of fan base numerically and the future fans, kids, who used to come to the game from these areas. I was one, but Keighley were getting three times as many fans then as now and 5 times as many later in Cougarmania days.
Where is the games future fan base from the 700 or so who currently constitute their supporters.?
Oh by the way, Dewsbury did quadruple their support when they won the league. They were in the 3 to 4,000 range and several years earlier, before that talented team, headlined by the two Stephensons, was assembled. their crowds were numbered in the hundreds. I know, I used to watch Keighley at Crown Flatt. The trouble was, as at Bradford and lLeds they flatlined and could not increase further, probably due to the small size of the town.
As for making Odsal the ground a a single West Yorkshire franchise. Not without many millions of pounds of investment. It's old and tired.
I suspect we have fewer fans casually following the game. When we used to have 30 odd clubs getting low to medium crowds most of these clubs had a greater potential to draw a large crowd from the surrounding area when they had a big Challenge Cup game. Nowadays, the decline of the CC as a draw has seen this stop, leaving just the few hundred fans that regularly follow them.
I'm not blaming anyone for this, I think it is an inevitability of full-time professionalism and the appeal of bigger sports.