Crowd Attendances at Wheldon Road

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Ken Smith
Dean Widders
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Joined: Mon Aug 21, 2017 6:44 am

Crowd Attendances at Wheldon Road

Post by Ken Smith » Fri May 22, 2020 6:06 pm

Many Cas fans have wondered how today’s crowd attendances compare with previous seasons. To start with it wasn’t until the mid 50s that accurate records were kept. Prior to then it was a question of guess work and records show even then no guesstimate was even given. In the 1926/27 season for example only the Challenge Cup fixture against Broughton Rovers was a definitive crowd figure of 7,336 recorded, every other match recorded estimated figures of between 1,000 and 6,000 probably giving a guestimate of about 3,800 for the inaugural season. It would appear that Cup ties were more popular than League matches for in the following season 11,299 watched the 3rd Round match against Swinton, after a guesstimate of about
12,500 had attended the 2nd Round win against Featherstone. Here again all other matches were guesses varying between 1,000 and 6,000 so successful Cup runs had a big say in the average for the season. No accurate figures were available for the next two seasons although it was suggested that about 11,700 attended the Cup match against Wigan Highfield in 1929, and that 23,000 might have attended the Cup match against Hunslet in 1934. For sure though guesstimates were increasing through the 30s as average attendances started to creep up towards the 7,500 mark and it was Challenge Cup and Yorkshire Cup runs which played a significant part in that rise. The only accurate crowd figures during that period were the 10.875 for the Challenge Cup over Batley in 1937 and the 24,355 for the 7-7 draw with Halifax in the following year. Even the Challenge Cup winning run to Wembley in 1939 showed no definitive crowd figures but it’s safe to say that the average League match with a few exceptions rarely topped 6,000 people. When Cas reached the Championship Playoff Final against Salford in 1939 one can only guess that about 20,000 watched the League match against Leeds and 23,000 for the same match in the previous season, but it’s fair to assume that overall attendances had crept over the 8,000 mark based on the higher guesstimates prevalent at that time. During the war years when many Cas players were guesting for other clubs, there was a large downturn in attendance figures with some matches in the Emergency League matches being less than 4 figures. Surprisingly in the first couple of seasons after the war, Rugby League didn’t have the boom in attendances that Football enjoyed where ground records were being broken by some clubs several times in the same season. However we were getting more accurate figures for more matches. For example 14,004 watched Cas play the Australian tourists in the 1948/49 season and 11,789 watched a League match against Huddersfield and a sellout crowd of 18,500 watched Cas beat Wakefield 6-5 in the Semifinal of the Yorkshire Cup. The following season 10,961 watched a League match between the same two
clubs, but it wasn’t until the following season that crowd attendances were being recorded more accurately. By then the average crowds over a season had dropped to about 5,000 due largely because of Cas’s poor performances in the League and both Cup competitions. For another example Cas could only attract a crowd of 1,206 for the visit of Hull who were a top 4 club at the time. The following season 1956/57 was the first time that all matches showed accurate crowd attendances, and yet average crowds at Wheldon Road had plummeted to 3,118. The next two seasons were even lower at 2,770 and 2,753 respectively. The only 7 figure crowd recorded for several seasons was the first match of the 1960/61 season when 10,907 watched Cas lose to Wakefield 9-26. After that the average attendances were 4,866, 5,549 and 6,239, the latter two being when the experimental 2 Division Leagues were played. A crowd of 11,496 watched Cas beat Wigan 24-14 in 1964 and the records show that 38,412 watched the final match of the season against St Helens. Now I don’t believe that figure, it must surely be a misprint, and I’m sure that some of you will have seen that match which Cas won 11-10 and can confirm or deny that statement.
Even the following season when the one Division system was restored and Cas finished 3rd only the first and last matches showed a 5 figure crowd, 10,618 against Wakefield and 10,765 against Halifax in the
Championship Playoff Semifinal, yet the average crowd was only 5,521 probably due the weaker calibre opposition. The average for the following two seasons were 5,702 and 8,986 probably enhanced by the official crowd figure of 22,582 for the replayed 2nd Round Challenge Cup encounter against Hull KR although the estimated crowd might well have exceeded 30,000. The 1968/69 Cup winning run had two 5 figure crowd attendances both against Leeds, 10,300 for the League encounter and a month later 13,180 for the Quarterfinal win, yet the overall average gate was a mere 5,390. A full house approaching 15,000 witnessed the Quarterfinal encounter against Salford as Cas reached Wembley again and yet the average attendance was only 5,850. The following year another large crowd of 12,479 watched Cas lose a 2nd Round Yorkshire Cup meeting against Leeds, but again the average attendance was only 5,380. Of course the miners’ strike then had a major effect on the following seasons as crowd averages subsided to 2,132,
1,725, 2,468 and 2,673 in the following seasons. It wasn’t until 1981 that Cas returned to Wheldon Road in numbers as 10,400 watched the Premiership Playoff Semifinal against Hull which Cas lost 11-12. Thereafter average attendances never reached more than 5,000 until the late 80s and early 90s when 6,500 was the norm although they fell again in the run-up to Super League. Of course playing during the winter months also had an effect on attendances, and these are the average attendances since then:-
Superleague l (1996) 5,180
Superleague ll (1997)5,082
Superleague lll (1998)6,777
Superleague IV (1999)6,662
Superleague V (2000)7,816
Superleague Vl (2001)7,513
Superleague Vll (2002)6,698
Superleague Vlll(2003)7,199
Superleague lX(2004)6,800
Superleague Xl(2006)7,096
Superleague Xlll(2008)7,501
Superleague XlV (2009)7,354
Superleague XV (2010)6,521
Superleague XVl (2011) 7,097
Superleague XVll (2012)6,710)
Superleague XVlll (2013)5,371
Superleague XlX (2014)6,359
Superleague XX (2015)6,192),
Superleague XXl (2016)7,180,
Superleague. XXll (2017)8,655,
Superleague XXlll (2018)7,601
Superleague XXlV (2019)7,253
0f course Cas were in the National League in seasons 2005 and 2007 when the average attendances were 3,331 and 3,948 respectively. Hopefully everyone can make sense of my findings.

Luke Gale
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Re: Crowd Attendances at Wheldon Road

Post by gateman » Fri May 22, 2020 8:49 pm

you have put some work in there well done ,over the last few seasons no doubt the attendances would have been bigger with less TV coverage

Dean Widders
Posts: 495
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:42 am

Re: Crowd Attendances at Wheldon Road

Post by Squaddie86 » Fri May 22, 2020 9:28 pm

Very interesting read that. Thanks Ken.

I came late to RL and the way some people go on you'd think the ground was always packed out in the "good old days".

Danny Orr
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Re: Crowd Attendances at Wheldon Road

Post by Piquad1 » Sat May 23, 2020 5:44 am

Well done Ken interesting reading. I applaud you for your hard work.

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