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The Leeds Conundrum

By BrianC
July 1 2005

This season I visited Headingley twice to watch Leeds Tykes play. It is a wonderful ground, in a prime location, filled with friendly and knowledgeable rugby folk. The conundrum? Why have their crowds remained so small? The Leeds Conundrum

Leeds Tykes - 2004/5 Season

26-Apr-05 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Harlequins 21 - 10 Headingley 8161
27-mar-05 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Leicester 23 - 22 Headingley 6723
25-Feb-05 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Saracens 5 - 14 Headingley 3132
28-Jan-05 ZP Leeds Tykes vs London Irish 16 - 5 Headingley 4252
27-Dec-04 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Newcastle 11 - 15 Headingley 14293
19-Nov-04 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Bath 28 - 30 Headingley 4096
05-Nov-04 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Northampton 26 - 21 Headingley 3247
10-oct-04 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Worcester Warriors 24 - 19 Headingley 5207
03-Oct-04 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Sale Sharks 11 - 14 Headingley 4592
19-Sep-04 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Wasps 9 - 13 Headingley 3526
05-Sep-04 ZP Leeds Tykes vs Gloucester 16 - 21 Headingley 4079
Season Average 5573

Without question the potential for growth is there. The game against Newcastle on 27th December, boosted by the return of Johnny Wilkinson after injury, attracted a remarkable 14.3k crowd. This gate brought their average for the 04/05 season to 5573, a very healthy 32.8% up on that of the previous one. That gate and their relegation crunch game with Harlequins aside Leeds are still struggling to attract a crowd large enough to balance the books.

The city of Leeds is firmly in rugby league territory however union followers based in West Yorkshire are quick to point out that there are more RU clubs there than in any part of the country. Whilst a small number of people actively support both codes, in general people will support one or the other. Never the twain shall meet. This, perhaps more than any other factor, is what is stifling Leeds growth.

The other union team who play in predominantly league territory are Sale. Like Leeds they too initially struggled to find an audience. Eventually with some attractive rugby, good results on field and the undoubted attraction of England World Cup star Jason Robinson they managed to do so. Can Leeds follow their path? As long as the money men behind them keep their nerve and with a fair wind behind them there is every chance they can.

Season Average Att. Position
(Out of)
Final ZP Position Percentage Growth
01-02 4143 11th(11) 12th(12)
02-03 4516 11th(11) 5th(12) 9.0%
03-04 4198 11th(12) 11th(12) -7.1%
04-05 5573 12th(12) 8th(12) 32.8%
Variation '01 -05 135% 11th(12)
Crowd Growth Absolute 1431 11th(12)
Average Growth 11.6% 11th(12)

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