Average crowds were up for the Ospreys - and across the league in general
The Ospreys enjoyed their highest ever average RaboDirect PRO12 crowds during 2012/13 – a trend that was replicated right across the competition, with both average and accumulative attendance figures rising to an all-time high.
Once again more than one million people passed through the turnstiles at PRO12 games in Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, with the total figure of 1,106, 563 including play-off games, up by over 4 per cent on the previous year’s total of 1, 061, 386.
With attendances up in the three UK countries, the Ospreys are leading the way, boasting the best league attendance in their 10-year history with an average of 9,274, up by 1,588 (20.7per cent) year on year and three per cent higher than the previous best average league attendance of 9,028 in the title winning season of 2006/07, when there was one less home game.
Ospreys Chief Operations Officer, Andrew Hore, hailed the improved figures as indication that both the regional game and the PRO12 are in good health.
"The clearest indication you can have of the appetite for regional rugby in this area, and in particular, what we are attempting to do here, with a young local coach, leading a young mainly local team, who take enormous pride in representing everything this region stands for. for the competition that is the RaboDirect PRO12, is to see people coming through the turnstiles in increasing numbers. In that respect, 2011/12 was a huge success, with not only the Ospreys recording our best ever attendance figures, but similar statistics being recorded across Wales, and across the league as a whole.
"That sends out a huge message to the rugby world and to commercial partners; we have a valuable product which people are buying into in ever increasing numbers. When I first arrived in Wales back in the summer of 2002, I remember going to watch Ebbw Vale versus Ulster, and there was hardly anybody in the crowd. As a spectacle, it was extremely poor.
"The rugby product in Wales is unrecognisable since then. The PRO12 has grown into the most competitive in Europe producing so many talented players, while the regional restructure is really taking hold now with the first generation of young supporters growing up knowing nothing else and coming to games in increasing numbers.
"We’ve worked incredibly hard on and off the field to create something here at the Liberty Stadium that is sustainable, that supporters can relate to and the effect of that has seen more and more joining the cause. With over 7,200 signed up for next season once more, and two months to go until the new PRO12 season kicks off, we’ve every reason to be positive about crowd figures once again for 2013/14."
More than 102,000 people poured through the Liberty Stadium turnstiles for PRO12 games alone last season, up almost 18,000 from 2011/12, and although that was the biggest increase in the league, there are positive stories in all corners of the competition.
The national average attendances are up in Wales, Scotland and Ireland, leading to a league average of 8,056 across all territories over 132 regular season games, up 4.5 per cent year on year
In Wales, both Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons reported increased averages of 8,933 and 6,518, with only the Scarlets showing a year-on-year decrease.
Andrew Hore added:
"Back in 2002/03, the opening weeks of the season saw Welsh clubs recording attendances in the very low thousands, and in some cases in the hundreds.
"In only the second week of the season, an Ospreylian derby between Swansea and Neath at St Helen’s had a recorded crowd of just 4,000, while a month later Llanelli v Swansea failed to attract 7,000. It was inconceivable to think of domestic rugby in Wales attracting crowds of 9 or 10,000, let alone the 19,500 we had here at the Liberty Stadium for the derby against the Scarlets last season.
"We’ve come a very long way since those dark days, but that is no reason to become complacent and take our support base for granted. We’ve got to use these fantastic figures as a platform to build from moving forward, to grow our support even further and ensure that we can create sustainable success on and off the field for the long term."