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How many rugby league clubs can fill a stadium with just their own fans?

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Expert
18th February, 2019
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2413 Reads

While on the surface everyone is bullish about the future of the World Club Challenge after this week’s spectacle, there is an underlying fear in the British game that’s hard to ignore.

Oh how we laughed when Super League club bosses started talking for the pie-and-a-pint index that allowed them to gauge how much money they would make from visiting supporters and how catastrophic it is that Toronto and Catalans bring none.

But consider this: not even the 12 apostles themselves would be as big a draw in rugby league-mad Wigan as NRL champions Sydney Roosters.

Wigan are the English game’s biggest club.

Yet while 21,331 is a good effort, the capacity at DW Stadium is 25,133. So it’s safe to say no Super League club can fill its stadium with it’s own fans (someone has just argued Leeds can prove me wrong there).

So where I’m going with this is while the Rugby Football League were justifiably painted as the bad guys for asking the Wolfpack and Catalans for £500,000 each to compete in the Challenge Cup, how long can Super League escape being publicly, similarly isolationist?

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A central Manchester team has just been denied entry to the lower leagues and there has been speculation that the New York bid is about to be given similar bad news.

They were also asked for a bond; Toronto pay for everything including, apparently, the coffees of visiting touch judges, and were still asked for more.

But given the undoubted reliance on visiting fans and the doubt over future TV money in Super League, perhaps a spot of similar xenophobia from them isn’t far away.

Toronto were assured last year that they would be accepted by Super League if they won the Million Pound Game last year. Perhaps they need to be assured of this again. Is it a fair accompli?

But Toulouse? New York? Will the new Super League administration – which is basically the clubs – leave the drawbridge down and allow the Rugby Football League to determine which businesses, based where, can join theirs’?

Or will they sooner or later also treat overseas teams differently, showing naked prejudice to protect their own pockets?

While it’s all well and good to discuss the World Club Challenge moving to Dubai and Singapore and such, the workaday operations of the sport in Britain continue to hang by a financial thread.

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