Fans loving Summer - And the new play-off format
Attendances and television audiences for Betfred Super League games over the summer have been significantly higher than a year ago.
The revamped league structure and play-offs series – which starts on Monday – is a significant factor, according to Super League bosses.
CEO Robert Elstone said: “Super League clubs were unanimous is their desire to introduce a ‘bankable’ league format that provided fixture certainty for fans, broadcasters and partners.
“The new format and a stronger fixture list has seen great numbers across the opening rounds and an Easter record.
“Across the summer, the race to make the top five or avoid relegation has grabbed the attention of all Super League fans.”
The drama follows Super League’s decision at the start of the season to scrap the Super 8s format and move back to a five-team play-off system, which was first used in 1998.
And it is a move that has worked – both inside Super League grounds, which have seen a spike in attendances, and for those watching on television.
-> Sky Sports has seen a 27 per cent increase in average audience in August compared with the corresponding stages of last season’s Super 8s.
-> TV figures were comparably impressive in July – up 24 per cent compared with a year ago.
-> Three of last month’s games are among the most watched matches of the season with two of those ranked in the top five - Leeds Rhinos v St Helens and Warrington Wolves v St Helens.
-> Five clubs – Salford Red Devils, St Helens, Catalans Dragons, Warrington Wolves and Hull KR - have reported their highest increase in attendances over the last five seasons, with Salford and Catalans up 25 per cent in August.
Elstone says the increasing figures are made more impressive given the competition posed by a congested summer calendar of sport, which has included Premier League football, The Ashes and World Cups in women’s football and cricket.
He added: “There’s been something at stake in almost every match over the past couple of months.
“And all of that comes to an amazing conclusion this weekend when nerves will be shredded and emotions will run high.
“We couldn’t have written it better.’’
League positions from second to 12th are still to play for ahead of the final round of regular season matches.
Any one of four teams can be relegated on Friday night.
Huddersfield Giants and Hull KR are battling for survival, while the winner of Wakefield Trinity against London Broncos is guaranteed to stay up (Sky Sports Main Event, 7pm).
Castleford Tigers and Hull FC are still vying for the final play-off berth.
Both teams face the top two, with Castleford away to Wigan on Thursday (Sky Sports, Main Event 7pm), while the consistently inconsistent Hull FC take on leaders St Helens at home on Friday.