The key numbers as World Cup attracts impressive TV audiences but falls well short of tickets target

THE World Cup finished with impressive TV audience figures while falling well short of its target for ticket sales.

In the build-up to the tournament, organisers set an ambitious aim of selling 750,000 tickets for the 61 matches across three tournaments.

However, the final cumulative attendance for the World Cup was 473,851.

The men’s tournament attracted aggregate crowds of 423,689, the second-highest in history but short of the 458,483 achieved when the World Cup was last played in England in 2013.

A further 30,698 people watched standalone women’s fixtures, including a northern hemisphere-record crowd of 8,621 for the opening games, with many more watching women’s games as part of double headers.

And the wheelchair tournament attracted an aggregate attendance of 19,464, including a world record figure of 4,526 for England’s win in the final.

The numbers were more encouraging for TV audiences, with a cumulative match average audience of 29.24m people tuning in to the BBC’s coverage domestically across network and digital channels.

The biggest audience was for the men’s semi-final between England and Samoa, watched by a combined peak audience of 2.8m and a 23% audience share, while England women’s semi-final defeat to New Zealand attracted a combined peak of 1.4m.

The wheelchair final was watched by a combined peak audience of 1.3 million people, while nearly a million viewers tuned in to the women’s final and almost two million for the men’s decider.

Organisers say that 46% of the viewership was based south of the Midlands, outside of the traditional Rugby League heartlands, with a further 43% based in the north and the remaining share from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Our ambition for Rugby League World Cup 2021 was to make the tournament the biggest, best and most inclusive World Cup in the sport’s 127-year history, and I think we’ve achieved that and more,” said RLWC2021 Chief Executive, Jon Dutton.

“We overcame huge obstacles to make it happen, including the pandemic and the subsequent postponement but these numbers clearly show that the tournament was worth waiting for.

“Nearly half a million people came through the turnstiles in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, with millions more tuning in to watch the matches on television or online.  

“The appetite for all three tournaments has been extraordinary, with record breaking attendances across men’s, women’s and wheelchair events. 

“I hope we have demonstrated the appetite for all three disciplines and laid a platform for international Rugby League to build on in the future with France 2025 and beyond.”