The Widnes paying public
The question of baffling crowds, I think has to be placed in context. Apart from the huge games which are referred to, average crowds at the height of our success in the late 80's and early 90's were only around 6000. I think the big problem was that when the SL era came along and we dropped out of the top flight (and that is a subject which could form a discussion topic all of its own). I believe that we lost fans to other clubs, some fans simply would not watch in a lower tier of the game, and I think that has followed us since 1995. Save the two spells in SL between 2003-2017, we have only really had average Championship attendances at home of between 3500-4500, and that really depends on how the team is performing. These averages did increase in the SL spells, but only back to within 1000 of our 80-90 average. We can get another 500 on the gate if we win 3 on the trot and it works the opposite way if we lose 3. I think I have been in the ground when we have dropped to something like 1900 for a Championship League game.
The town is full of intelligent RL fans, but many of the older generation in my experience have "seen it all" in terms of the success of the 70's 80's and 90's and are also disillusioned with the game in general and specifically the way this club has been treated within it. They jut won't watch what is on offer today. I happen to agree with much of it. But I put all that aside to continue supporting this great club, which has achieved unprecedented success for the percentage of the town who support it - almost like Nottm Forest winning the European Cup in the 80's - marvelous sporting achievements.
I think I have been in the ground when we have dropped to something like 1900 for a Championship League game.
I have been in the ground with similar poor gates but in the first division as it was, mid eighties .1800 v Dewsbury and 1600 v York.This was in the top division when Widnes were still a big name club.Shocking.I had never seen the ground so sparse, apart from A team games.
Erik you make some good points. As a club and a town, we area always up against it with crowds.
However, I think there is too much negativity in the town about Widnes, there is also too many people who are only interested when it’s the “big occasions”. In 89, the first home game of that season was in front of a sparse, 5000 fans, the champions been welcomed home with a crowd like that, is and was frankly embarrassing.
A few weeks later, that number increased to 11,000. The fans in the town were there but they obviously wasn’t overly invested in the club.
Can't honestly think how that could be improved atm. We are not able to compete in the market for FT top players, simply on financial grounds. Hopefully that might improve if the game is re-organised, but that is not a certainty!
One major problem is that crowds don't travel as they used to. Funnily enough our faithful still seem to like it! For that reason other clubs like us to visit.
I do wonder if a cut priced ticket for visiting ST holders could help to persuade them to travel? Obviously we would get similar benefits when we go! The RFL could get on board and it could be a factor in the way funds are split between clubs.
Iirc in the good old days Leeds used to sell their ST's cheap and charge visitors top whack, but that was before streaming etc! That's how they sold their 12,000 ST's!
I do think tickets particularly in SL were overpriced but I have never been a proponent of “kids go free”. I think the issue when it comes to Widnes like a lot of clubs is not the price but more the enjoyment of it.
If we attract 3,000 fans in the championship, I think that’s a good figure. My issue is more wider, I don’t think we are the worst for it. In fact, Warringtons attendances are not that impressive considering the population of the town.
I just think no matter what we did in SL, fans who in theory should be going the games, still won’t go and history backs that up. When I say “in theory” I mean widnesian families who were brought up on rugby not football and trust me, there’s more than what people think.
I say St Helens is the biggest RL town. When we use to play them, I’d get the 17 bus and as soon as you hit Sutton manor 3 miles from the ground you would see saints shirts everywhere walking to the game. When St. Helens played on a Friday night, the whole town knew about it, part of the towns culture.
Sadly I don’t think that has ever been true with Widnes and it’s not true with Warrington.
I say St Helens is the biggest RL town. When we use to play them, I’d get the 17 bus and as soon as you hit Sutton manor 3 miles from the ground you would see saints shirts everywhere walking to the game. When St. Helens played on a Friday night, the whole town knew about it, part of the towns culture. Sadly I don’t think that has ever been true with Widnes and it’s not true with Warrington.
But when Saints new ground was being built their speccies wouldn't be arsed to drive to our ground to watch their team!
It sounds as if Davy realises that the game needs a re-think to shift it back onto an upward track. Hopefully he has enough weight to convince the others. He must know how hard Huddersfield have tried to boost their support.
But when Saints new ground was being built their speccies wouldn’t be arsed to drive to our ground to watch their team!
More Saints fans went to Widnes than Widnes fans did, when they used our ground.They averaged 7800 here, higher than any of our averages from 11 seasons in Super League.Every game was an away game for them that year, we would be lucky to get 2000 using their place for home games, even in SL.
Ah, the good old, 'what was the score mate?' as you walk back to your car after the match!
Looking at it historically, we didn't really have a new ground bounce because we had a shocking bottom end of the table 2nd Div team at the time. If we were in SL with a better team maybe we would have had the benefit.
Also, we were nearly there in 2005 with the attendances, but relegation hammered us.
If we can keep solid at around 3000-3500 in the Championship, that's fine: we have seen how prolonged spells in the 2nd Div have hammered Halifax for example in terms of attendance!
Ah, the good old, ‘what was the score mate?’ as you walk back to your car after the match! Looking at it historically, we didn’t really have a new ground bounce because we had a shocking bottom end of the table 2nd Div team at the time. If we were in SL with a better team maybe we would have had the benefit. Also, we were nearly there in 2005 with the attendances, but relegation hammered us. If we can keep solid at around 3000-3500 in the Championship, that’s fine: we have seen how prolonged spells in the 2nd Div have hammered Halifax for example in terms of attendance!
amazing to think we had more fans in 2005 an absolute dismal campaign than we did in 2002!
You make a great point, in 2012 I think the lack of real buzz from promotion was minor to say the least. Without a fantastic championship season, any excitement would be largely faux.
I think we could hit 7,000-8,000 fans with years of consistent SL finishes, top 4s etc. If we could attract 6,500 in a year we finished 12th in 2017, then we are really not far of those targets.
The simple fact is that the overwhelming majority of Widnesians don’t see enough value for money in watching Widnes.
Somebody, somewhere needs to find a way of making the game more appealing - sadly it seems beyond the RFL to do it.
Why the RFL? Clubs want a decentralised league system yet expect the RFL to be central in developing the game in the community?
My hypothesis is what you say, no matter what we do on the field, we will struggle for crowds due to the strange relationship between Rugby and the town of Widnes. However, with the right ownership, skill and strategy and a super competitive team on the field, increase crowds isn’t too difficult.
Why the RFL? Clubs want a decentralised league system yet expect the RFL to be central in developing the game in the community? My hypothesis is what you say, no matter what we do on the field, we will struggle for crowds due to the strange relationship between Rugby and the town of Widnes. However, with the right ownership, skill and strategy and a super competitive team on the field, increase crowds isn’t too difficult.
My opinion is that the game has changed over the period of my life time from being a genuine amateur game where players with skills (and different skill at that depending upon which position a player played) to a wannabe professional game that relies on speed and brute force. The players are now mostly homogenous and the emphasis is on five one out plays and then a positional kick until one of the sides makes a mistake.
Again in my opinion the game has shifted from trying to win by using individual skills to trying to pressurise the other side to fail with one basic game plan.
A lot of the blame for this lies with the RFL and the rules they have gradually introduced over the years making the game a trial of speed rather than a form of entertainment.
I honestly don’t think that having a decentralised game won’t remove the need for the games’ lawmakers.
If you chucked the idea of a professional world game away, though kept the notion of sensible expansion based on setting up solid grassroots and actually encouraged kids to learn the skills of the game (as they were when we were World Champions) there may be more people - in Widnes and elsewhere that would pay to be entertained.
Just my opinion though and, as was said in another thread, that’s what fans forums are for.
Big leap from 6500 to 8000.Even 6500 to 7000.Dont forget the averages include big followings from Saints ,Wigan and Warrington.Widnes will never get 8000 to home games regularly.
Not sure if this thread was inspired by the same comments I heard on the Sky repeat of our game with Leeds last week, but I had made a note of the quotes from Eddie Hemmings to put in an article, and just got round to writing it.
I think ultimately, you can only do the best you can.
I'm not sure there's always a correlation between success and attendances; shown by the fact that our average crowd was higher in 2005 than in 2002; and the fact the likes of Huddersfield haven't increased their crowds even when top of the league.
I do think had our fan engagement and marketing been better between 2014-2016, then we really could have kicked up above the 7,500 average.
The problem is previous custodians of the club have been very "we need more fans to make the club better on the pitch" which just isn't the way forward. They were guilt tripping existing fans, rather than attracting new ones. It was also very difficult at times to be a fan, no cash turnstiles etc.
We clearly have a (albeit relatively small) die hard fanbase, which some clubs would kill for.
One of the challenges we have is that floating or casual fans, are perhaps now more likely to go and enjoy a game at Warrington or St Helens, rather than come to Widnes.
It's a shame that the ideas of using the iPitch for activities after a game never came to fruition - or nothing was ever done to explore utilising the car park more. The Sports bar idea, maybe a bit expanded, should have been a good way to get people in.
Free tickets etc is largely a waste of time - yes you might get some take up, but you do it too often, and people ultimately just wait for the freebie.
I spoke to some parents who had basically got sick of coming, and the novelty of their kid going out and waving the flag and playing on the pitch had worn off, because it was happening so often.