Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
leicestertigers.comMattioli Woods Welford RoadContact UsTopps Tiles

GP seeks ten million target

Figure image
The Premiership will welcome its ten millionth supporter on Friday evening when London Irish host Gloucester Rugby at the Madejski Stadium. Both clubs have played in all ten seasons of the Premiership and will meet one third of the way through the current season to create this milestone.

Steady growth over the course of ten years has seen average crowds nearly double, with the average per round attendance standing at just over 11,000 after six rounds of the Guinness Premiership. After those six rounds, the total attendance stood at 9,979,486, meaning just 20,515 people were required to break the ten million mark.

Eleven of the current 12 clubs contested that first Premiership season in 1997/98, with Richmond completing the 12 in place of their modern day counterparts Worcester Warriors.

Sir John Hall was one of many entrepreneurs who grasped the nettle of professionalism and that first Premiership title was won by his Newcastle team, captained and coached by current RFU Elite Rugby Director, Rob Andrew.

Newcastle won that first Premiership title by one point from Saracens, whose Australian World Cup winner Michael Lynagh finished the season as leading points scorer. Since then, Lynagh has been a summariser on Sky Sports who have covered the Premiership from the start.

"When I first arrived, the Premiership was still firmly rooted in the amateur era", said Lynagh. "A lot of clubs still played on park pitches and you would play with cars parked round the side and supporters standing behind a rope to watch you. The growth since those days has been phenomenal. Crowds have grown massively and many clubs, including Saracens, have moved grounds to cater for that increase in demand.

"Watching the club game grow and develop over the years on Sky Sports, I think the competitiveness of the league is what keeps supporters coming back. We go to a different match every week and you never know which team is going to win. When you couple that with the race for the title, the scramble for Heineken Cup places and the spectre of relegation, every game matters and means something and as a fan, that drama is what you pay to see."

Since the start of the Premiership, Sky Sports has covered well over 200 matches, with each outside broadcast requiring 5km of cable, up to 20 cameras, 15 microphones and up to 60 people on the production staff.

On the field, in nine years of Premiership action there have been 1,283 matches, yielding nearly 60,000 points and over 6,000 tries. Nearly 500 of the 1,283 matches have finished with margins of seven points or less.

Over 1,000 visits to the sin bin have been made to date, whilst over 50 red cards have been shown, approximately four per hundred matches.

Premier Rugby Chief Executive Mark McCafferty concluded by saying, "Reaching this milestone is a real achievement for the Premiership and says much about the success of English club rugby.

"Looking back, we are grateful to the individuals, many of whom are still involved today, who invested in club rugby and are now seeing the fruits of their labour. We are also grateful to all our supporters who have made the Premiership such a success.

"Looking forward, I hope this weekend represents the start of the next phase in our development. We face a number of challenges. Increasing our capacity through expansion or relocation to cater for the increasing demand for club rugby is the first. The second is to reach agreement with the Rugby Football Union on the long-term future of the elite game in England, one I hope will recognise the strength of the club game. Rugby clubs with heritages stretching back centuries have embraced professionalism and achieved dramatic growth and success. We are celebrating that today and looking forward to the future with real optimism."