Super League’s Growth Challenge – #RugbyInsight
- Huge challenge for Super League clubs to take advantage of significant excess stadium capacity – the average Super League stadium on match day in 2016 was just over half-full at 54.64%
- Marginal uplift from 2015 to 2016 as average stadium occupancy grew 0.55% from 54.09% to 54.64%
- Total Attendance up 2.6% from 1.177m to 1.207 million.
- Average attendance down 0.2% from 8,978 to 8,962
With the 2017 Super League now underway, we’ve extended our #RugbyInsight programme monitoring attendances versus capacity into Rugby League. We’ll be monitoring and commenting upon performance and trends in the 2017 season. The RFL are currently into the third year of a five year deal with Sky Sports worth £182.2 million with approximately £150 million going to Super League clubs. A review of the 2015 and 2016 attendance data shows that growth is negligible.
Have Super League clubs become too reliant on the TV broadcast income at the expense of in-house activity to drive incremental revenue?
Despite a record TV deal, it’s clear that there is significant scope for revenue growth off the pitch. The average occupancy at Super League matches in 2015 and 2016 seasons was just over 54%; the average ground was just over half –full.
f the twelve Super League teams, half of the teams had an average occupancy of over 60% in 2016. Leeds Rhinos had a consistently full stadium across the 2015 and 2016 seasons. In 2016 they enjoyed the highest average attendance of 15,324 and an average occupancy of 74.97%. Average attendance was 3% down on 2015 decreasing from 15,742 to 15,324. In context this was a minimal reduction, Leeds’ drop in performance on the pitch in 2016, from 2015 Treble winners to 9th position, was far more marked.
There were two further teams with average occupancy over 70%. Catalans Dragons enjoyed an average occupancy of 75.11% whilst Warrington Wolves averaged 73.61%. They both enjoyed significant growth on their 2015 performances with the Dragons up 9.26% on 2015 and the Wolves up 8.79%. Castleford Tigersalso saw a 3.92% uplift in average occupancy to 67.77% for 2016. Wakefield Trinity were able to fill their stadium more effectively in 2016, with average occupancy up 5.52% to 41.20% in 2016.
However, the seven remaining clubs saw average occupancy drop by between 0.5% and 4.89%. Salford Red Devils saw the biggest drop in average occupancy, down 4.89% to 30.21% occupancy. Widnes Vikings also saw a 4.43% decline in average occupancy to 42.27%.
A huge opportunity exists for clubs across the league to enhance stadium utilisation and drive commercial revenue. In December 2016, Wigan Warriors announced that they had sold 7,500 season tickets for the 2017 season. At an average season ticket cost of £211, a 20% uplift in season ticket sales would net Wigan an extra £316,500.
If we take the average number of season ticket holders across the league to be approximately 60% of average most teams can expect a similar revenue uplift. St. Helens have approximately 7,500 season ticket holders, with 20% growth they can get an incremental £207,000 with an average season ticket price of £138.00.
Carried across all the Super League clubs if each one was to extend their season ticket base by 20%, the incremental revenue opportunity would be £2.3 million. Analysing the full extent of the excess capacity across the stadia, if Super League clubs were able to sell out fully, the combined opportunity is in the region £16.4 million.
Are Super League clubs doing enough with their brand development and outbound marketing to drive incremental season ticket sales?