The decision-makers in rugby league have never been known for their foresight, but Super League took centre stage in the UK sporting landscape a fortnight ago when the turnstiles to live outdoor events opened for the first time in months. The sport is taking a march on its competitors after the competition correctly chose to relocate five of the first weekend’s six events to allow spectators to attend. That was a swift change from the online casino where fans could play free slots NZ as they stayed at home.
All sports rely on their fans, but rugby league is especially reliant on them. Even the top clubs in the league, with their affluent supporters, have felt the effects of playing behind closed doors for the last year. Fans may now relive the excitement of live sport once more.
The thrills aren’t limited to the terraces, though. Kris Radlinski, Wigan’s chief executive, describes the experience as “soulless”. “There is nothing quite like getting to a game early and watching the crowd build and the atmosphere intensify. Those moments are really magical. Seeing fans from all different teams side by side, cheering on their club, league fans are truly unique in sport in that sense. I can’t wait to see the fans inside again.”
Wigan faced local rivals Leigh in front of roughly 4,000 fans, while Warrington faced Huddersfield in front of a similar crowd. “It’s shown how fragile we are as a sport, not having supporters here,” says the Wolves’ chief executive, Karl Fitzpatrick.
“To not think any club needs revenue from supporters is delusional. We’re not like football, with a mega television deal and huge backing. We need our members and supporters just as much as they need us to provide a bit of relief and entertainment.”
Not all smooth for some
Only one set of fans went home pleased from the five Super League teams that welcomed their fans back, with Super League champions St Helens the only home club to win, as they handily thrashed Salford Red Devils.
Regardless, it was a memorable moment for rugby league in general, with each team’s fans creating an atmosphere that had an influence on their respective coaches.
Castleford coach Daryl Powell said. “It’s weird, really strange, in fact. It was strange for me because of the current situation, but strange because we haven’t seen it for a while too. It was weird coming down Wheldon Road and seeing all the fans and hearing them.”
Hull KR overcame the Tigers courtesy of a late Jordan Abdull try, and Powell was one of several head coaches who had to apologize to their own fans on a momentous night for rugby.
“Obviously it’s fantastic and it’s great to have an atmosphere, but we didn’t do the fans justice, which is what we really wanted to do tonight,” he said. “We just weren’t good enough. While it’s great to have them back, they’ll have gone home disappointed, and that’s the last thing we wanted. So that wasn’t good.”
Powell’s successor at Warrington Wolves in 2022 was equally dissatisfied with his team’s performance in front of their own supporters. When Warrington came out for their warm-up on Monday, they were greeted with thunderous cheers, but less than an hour later, there were ripples of boos inside the Halliwell Jones Stadium as Huddersfield led 20-0 at half-time.
The Wolves rallied in the second half, but the Giants were able to hold off the Wolves 26-20.