Pssst…sometimes I hope Rugby League never gets big

Pssst…sometimes I hope Rugby League never gets big

My girlfriend thinks I’m nuts. I’m off to my 15th Grand Final this weekend (her 8th), and if I don’t have my tickets by April, I start to panic.

“But this year it’ll be different, what if Rugby League finally explodes and it sells out?”

Strangely, it never seems to occur to me that most fans wait to see if their team are in the Grand Final before buying a ticket, but I’m there every year no matter what, and the tickets were bought way back in March when Warrington still looked like the team to beat.

The sport certainly deserves to explode. It’s far more of a spectacle than the other code and there’s still an honesty about it that’s long gone in football.

And in many ways, that’s all part of the charm. Tickets are reasonably priced, families are welcomed, fans can mingle freely with little sign of trouble (usually). Seriously, could you imagine Magic Weekend with Arsenal v Spurs, Chelsea v West Ham and Manchester City v Manchester United on the same day?

Growing up just outside London, football was my first love as a kid, and I went to countless Arsenal games. As a teenager, my membership allowed me to buy a ticket for any game, it would be about £15-£20, and even though football was starting to slip out of reach for the average person, it was still just about there. I know I sound old, and my Dad’s generation would have you believe it died out long before the Premier League started in 1992, but there was still a pureness about football for me in the late 90s and early 00s. Maybe it’s just because I was a kid.

Anyway, I digress. This article’s about Rugby League, not football. The point is, while we’d all love to see Rugby League grow and realise its potential, personally I love the fact I can still pay on the gate for most games, go to a cup final at Wembley for less than £30 and bump into a player in Tesco.

If games did start selling out routinely, do you know what would happen? Ticket prices would increase, families would be priced out of going completely, and the next generation of fans would be replaced by Instagram-loving tourists and TikTok influencers. Believe me, I’ve seen it first hand at the Emirates.

I’m not against progress and I would love to see Rugby League explode into the national consciousness, but if it means £200k per week players living in gated communities, £80 replica shirts, £2,000 a year season tickets and £100 tickets to watch Castleford v Salford, then it probably wouldn’t be for me anymore.

So, for now, I’m more than happy keeping this great sport as our secret, and just be careful what you wish for.

Darren Notley

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