Straight up facts based piece here, which has just come out of curiosity really, but may help inform some of my future writing.
I was wondering which Super League clubs do relatively well in attendances in terms of the population of their immediate drawing market.
The drawing market is defined here by the English district the stadium is placed within as per the Office for National Statistics population statistics. The clear drawback to this analysis is the Catalan Dragons – I’ve included them in the analysis but I can’t say how well their population statistics relate to the English ones, some of which include wider areas than just the town or city the club is based in. Another note before we get going with numbers is that in terms of districts, London is broken down into its smaller parts.
A note on the data, attendance figures are for the 2009-2012 seasons inclusive, other than for Widnes, who have only the 2012 figure to use for that period. Crude figures are taken from the individual season data as given by the excellent resource that is the Rugby League Project. I haven’t scoured through them or independently verified them as they seem robust enough at a glance to give a strong indication of the true picture.
Finally, Wakefield and Castleford are both part of the Wakefield district, and Hull FC and Hull KR are both part of the Kingston upon Hull district. Now, it would be too simplistic to chop these districts in half – both teams in these areas don’t show the same level of support. To get around this I took the combined attendance then matched the proportion each team was responsible for to the proportion of the total district population – i.e. Hull FC have roughly 60% of the combined average attendance for the Hull teams so I allocated them 60% of the district population.
Below are two tables – one for population, one for attendance. These are followed by a graph illustrating the respective rankings within Super League.
The teams above the line show better attendance than their population would suggest, and below the line vice versa. Warrington and Widnes are where they might be expected, sitting as they do on the dividing line. The Hull teams look in good shape, whilst London, Salford and Huddersfield aren’t faring so well. London and Salford deserve particular criticism as they have much larger potential drawing areas than those given in the tables above, being as they are the only Super League clubs in London and Manchester respectively. (I know Salford isn’t actually Manchester, but you understand my point I’m sure.)
Now I know this analysis isn’t perfect. It doesn’t factor attendance as a percentage of capacity, although there are so few capacity crowds attending Super League games that this doesn’t influence matters too much – rarely would a crowd have been bigger if the stadiums were bigger. It doesn’t account for fans that don’t live in the district, of which there will be many (I would fall into this category myself). It assumes everyone in the district is a potential fan of the local team, when there will be some who may already support a rival team or may have no interest in following a sports team at all. It doesn’t account for the percentage of a team’s attendance is made up by away supporters, although you’d expect the effect of away numbers to even out some what with teams having a stable core of away support going to all away games. It doesn’t account for support that can’t make it to games for whatever reason. Also, as the charts are based on rankings, rather than proportions, it doesn’t give the real gap between attendance and potential audience, but then it doesn’t account for substitute goods (other things people could do other than go watch rugby) either.
Like I say, it isn’t perfect, but it is an indication of who gets the best out of their potential market. Some teams are doing better than others, and I would like all teams in real attendance terms to be doing better than they are. This sport deserves more attention and bigger audiences.