Attendances are in decline in Super League, with 2019’s average of 8,408 making it the fourth consecutive season in which crowd totals have gone down.
Many of the game’s biggest clubs are seeing their fanbases dwindling, but which are struggling most and which are bucking the trend?
We’ve looked back at the league attendances (including play-offs and Super 8s) throughout the 2010s for each of the 11 regular Super League clubs to find out…
One of the few teams to see an increase over the past 10 years is Castleford, whose ascent in the Super League standings since 2014 is reflected in the number of extra people coming through the Jungle gates.
The 12th-placed Tigers saw their attendances shoot up by 40% in the four years it took Daryl Powell to make them League Leaders’ Shield winners in 2017.
That has dropped again in the past two seasons but Cas remain one of the clubs on a surer footing, even though uncertainty continues to surround progress on a new stadium.
Average attendance: 7,255
Trend per season: +138
Highest attendance: 11,500 (v Leeds, 2017)
Lowest attendance: 3,222 (v Huddersfield, 2013)
Maintaining a support base over time has been a major challenge for every club from outside the sport’s heartlands which has entered the British game, but Catalans have gone from strength to strength.
Having averaged 6,534 in their first Super League season in 2006 and dropped back to a similar level at the start of the 2010s, the Dragons have managed to not only consolidate over the past decade but grow their support at a faster rate than any other top-flight team.
The figure for 2019 is improved by the record-breaking Camp Nou attendance, but even without that anomaly their average would have been up on the previous two years.
Average attendance: 8,493
Trend per season: +185
Highest attendance: 31,555 (v Wigan, 2019, at Camp Nou); 11,856 (v Wigan, 2016, at Stade Gilbert Brutus)
Lowest attendance: 5,055 (v Wakefield, 2010)
No team receives more stick from opposition supporters for their small crowds than Huddersfield, whose John Smith’s Stadium is certainly larger than requirements.
The late 00s and early 10s peak of 7,000 averages each season has been followed by a marked decline. Crowds have fallen in six of the past seven years, beginning strangely in their League Leaders Shield-winning season of 2013.
Last year the Giants were overtaken by Wakefield to have the third-smallest following in Super League, behind only Salford and London. Over the 10-year period as a whole, no other top-flight team has had a lower percentage drop with support declining at 4% a year.
Average attendance: 6,257
Trend per season: -261
Highest attendance: 10,428 (v Leeds, 2011)
Lowest attendance: 3,690 (v Featherstone, 2016)
Hull enjoyed two growth spurts in attendances in the first decade of the 2000s, first with the move from the Boulevard to the KCOM Stadium and then following their run to the Grand Final in 2006, which saw their best four figures of the summer era up to 2010.
The fall was quick from there but, while most other top clubs have seen decline in this past decade, FC’s attendances have held up consistently at 11,000.
One disappointment may be the absence of another bounce following their period of success in 2016 and 2017, but they have been in the top three for support for each of the past four years.
Average attendance: 11,809
Trend per season: -144
Highest attendance: 20,507 (v Hull KR, 2015)
Lowest attendance: 4,970 (v Catalans, 2013)
No Super League club’s attendances have held up as consistently over the past decade as Hull KR’s.
Never was their loyal support more obvious than in 2017, when the prospect of Championship rugby did little to dispel enthusiasm and the average attendance at Craven Park dropped by only 182.
In each of their past five Super League seasons, Rovers have been the best supported English team outside the big five of Hull FC, Leeds, St Helens, Warrington and Wigan, and they continue to impressively punch their weight.
Average attendance: 7,849
Trend per season: -27
Highest attendance: 12,100 (v Hull FC, 2019)
Lowest attendance: 6,412 (v Catalans, 2014)
The Rhinos have been the best-supported club in England over the course of the 2010s, continuing to draw the crowds into Headingley as they tasted the success of four Super League titles.
They were consistently around the 15,000 mark each season up to their most recent league win in 2017, good figures albeit a slight drop on their peak of the summer era in the mid-00s, which saw 17,000+ averages in 2005 and 2007.
The past two years have seen a significant drop with the redevelopment work taking place, and the club will hope for an increase this season with the stadium capacity up to almost 20,000.
Average attendance: 14,487
Trend per season: -215
Highest attendance: 23,246 (v Castleford, 2018, at Elland Road); 18,520 (v Bradford, 2012, at Headingley)
Lowest attendance: 7,112 (v Catalans, 2014)
Salford Red Devils
Super League’s lowest-supported team in four of the past five seasons, even last year’s extraordinary run to the Grand Final did little to expand Salford’s fanbase beyond its most dedicated followers.
The first two years of the decade were the final ones at the Willows, which was bid farewell in their final game by over 10,000 fans, still their record Super League crowd.
A new stadium bounce at the AJ Bell in 2012 saw an average gate over 5,500 but that did not last long, with a decline which saw their average drop below 3,000 as many fans quickly fell out of love with their new home.
Average attendance: 3,989
Trend per season: -195
Highest attendance: 10,146 (v Catalans, 2011, at the Willows); 7,102 (v Wakefield, 2014, at AJ Bell Stadium)
Lowest attendance: 1,405 (v Huddersfield, 2017)
Saints are the other side along with Salford to have made a permanent ground switch over the past 10 years, moving into Langtree Park in 2012 and attracting almost 14,000 punters a match in its first season.
Support has consolidated around the 11,000 mark that they had when leaving Knowsley Road, with a year playing away in Widnes in 2011, but the stadium is a perfect size to give Super League its biggest regular sell-out fixture when Wigan come to town.
St Helens are also the only top-flight club who can boast an increase in each of the past four seasons, with their success on the pitch bringing a few extra faces onto the terraces.
Average attendance: 11,290
Trend per season: +54
Highest attendance: 17,980 (v Wigan, 2012; v Wigan, 2014; v Wigan, 2018)
Lowest attendance: 5,348 (v Salford, 2013)
Hopes of a new stadium have dominated talk at Trinity for much of this past decade, but Belle Vue will remain home to Wakefield for the foreseeable future with redevelopment plans afoot instead.
Attendances in the 2010s saw turbulence, with new ownership and generous prices seeing crowds jump by a quarter in 2012 before things came back down with a bump in 2014.
Their average has gone up again in three of the past four seasons so, although yet to return to the level from the beginning of the 2010s, Trinity will hope the trend can continue in a revamped stadium.
Average attendance: 5,753
Trend per season: -238
Highest attendance: 10,031 (v Leeds, 2013)
Lowest attendance: 2,500 (v Salford, 2016)
Since moving to the Halliwell Jones Stadium in 2004, attendances have remained fairly steady for Warrington around the 10,000 mark.
It can be little coincidence that their top two seasons for averages since switching from Wilderspool have come in 2011 and 2016, the years in which they have won the League Leaders’ Shield.
The Wolves were widely applauded for their marketing last year and that did bring crowds back up again after a couple of years of decline, but the true test of their progress will be whether they can take their support to new heights in the coming years.
Average attendance: 10,451
Trend per season: -78
Highest attendance: 15,008 (v Widnes, 2016)
Lowest attendance: 5,627 (v Castleford, 2019)
No club has won more trophies or reached as many Grand Finals as Wigan over the course of the 2010s, but no other current Super League club has felt as large a decline in their attendances either.
The Warriors have been losing over 400 fans a year, taking a particularly big hit in 2018 when crowds dropped by over 2,000 despite the team winning the Super League title.
From being the best supported side in England in 2012, they slumped to fourth place in 2019 behind Leeds, Hull and now even bitter rivals St Helens.
Average attendance: 13,674
Trend per season: -432
Highest attendance: 24,057 (v St Helens, 2011)
Lowest attendance: 6,790 (v Catalans, 2011)