Welsh festive derbies pull in biggest crowds for six years

Guinness PRO12 Rugby Editor

3 Jan 2017

More than 48,000 rugby supporters attended the four big festive derby contests over seven days during Christmas and New Year in the Guinness PRO12 – the highest total attendance in festive pro rugby at the four home grounds in Wales since 2010.

With three of the four derbies attracting five figure crowds and a total attendance of 48,073 over one week – all four fixtures recorded season high attendances; Cardiff Blues 11,654 at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Boxing Day, Ospreys 19,514 at the Liberty Stadium (Dec 27th) Scarlets 10,159 at Parc y Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons 6,746 at Rodney Parade, both on New Year’s Day.

The 2016/17 festive derbies crowds were up by 10% up on last season.

Attendances in the Guinness PRO12 championship during the 2016/17 festive season have been up too with close to 100,000 supporters (99,617) attending Guinness PRO12 games in Round 11 – the second-highest figure in the history of the competition.  The gate for round 12 was 49,226 (up 11% like-for-like) with a total attendance of 594,905 in the PRO12 this season (up 6,6%).

Chief Executive of Pro Rugby Wales Mark Davies said it was positive to see growth in the festive fixtures this year with the double Welsh derby showcase Judgement Day V (Sat April 15th 2017) on the horizon in under four months’ time.

He said: “The festive derbies are a very significant part of the season for all four clubs both on and off the field and it’s positive that the partnership between the four commercial teams, Pro Rugby Wales, WRU, Guinness PRO12 and our broadcast partners is working well to promote these games. Together with a great turnout from our supporters at both home and away derby fixtures, we’ve seen fantastic rugby occasions with a real club rugby atmosphere at every game.

“It’s positive for our game in Wales and for the PRO12 championship to see the Welsh festive derby crowds increase and the fact we have hosted close to 50,000 rugby supporters over seven days and attracted new customers as well as our loyal fans is important for the future success of the professional game in Wales and sets the stage for Judgement Day V at the Principality Stadium in April.

“All four derbies recorded season high crowds and although we have a long way to go in the season, it’s great to see two Welsh sides in the top four of the Guinness PRO12 at the half way point.

“The Ospreys/Scarlets derby at the Liberty stadium was the highest regional derby crowd outside the Principality Stadium for six years and many congratulations to the Ospreys for winning all five of their Welsh derby contests in all competitions so far this season.”

The CEO of Pro Rugby Wales added that a close partnership with host broadcasters was another vital part of the festive derby season.

He said: “Another key ingredient in the success of these fixtures and the ability to reach new audiences and supporters is working closely with host broadcasters and it’s encouraging that our festive games also attracted big broadcast audiences, reaching more than 700,000 viewers in one week and increasing visibility for our games – the 2nd half of Ospreys v Scarlets on the 27th December was the most watched TV programme in Wales that day via our coverage with S4c.

“It’s the most intense period in the calendar with back-to-back European games straight after the autumn series, followed by back-to-back derbies with tight turnarounds and little chance of recovery for squads – so credit to the rugby set-ups for pulling out all the stops for these four festive derby fixtures.

“There’s no let-up either as we go into another big round of Guinness PRO12 contests this weekend with the Championship showing great momentum with a record number of tries scored after 12 rounds and crowds up overall.”

Martin Anayi, CEO for the Guinness PRO12, has paid tribute to the dedicated efforts of the clubs and the commitment of their supporters during the festive season.

He said: “Our clubs and supporters have really bought into the Big Weekend concept since it began earlier this season and to see so many fans turn out across one weekend (R11 99,716) is a testament to that.

“The fact that all of these games were played at the regular home grounds of our clubs underlines the tremendous achievement of attracting so many fans.

“There is a real feel-good factor around the Guinness PRO12 right now thanks to the success of our teams in European competition and fans are also responding to the positive play and record number of tries being scored in the Championship this season.”

Welsh festive derbies 2016/17 total attendance = 48,073

Welsh festive derbies 2015/16 total attendance = 43,761

Welsh festive derbies 2014/15 total attendance = 47,319

Welsh festive derbies 2013/14 total attendance = 46,936

Welsh festive derbies 2012/13 total attendance = 46,576

Welsh festive derbies 2011/12 total attendance = 44,173