Leicester, the biggest rugby club in England, ushered in the new Aviva Premiership season today by announcing operating profits of £482,000 – a 20 per cent increase – for the year to the end of June. The eight-time champions also confirmed that nearly 15,000 spectators bought season tickets. No other team attracted as many supporters, of any description.
How the other half live. A little over 100 miles to the north-west, Sale issued an appeal for support in an effort to make the sums add up. The 2005 champions have lost around 3,000 off the gate since moving from a rickety venue in Stockport to a 12,000-capacity new ground in Salford.
By moving most of their games from Friday to Saturday evenings, thereby abandoning the attempt to avoid clashes with Manchester’s football clubs, Sale believe that an average gate of 8,000 will help them finance sharper recruitment and restore the club to the level at which it operated in the middle years of the last decade, when the likes of Jason Robinson and Sébastien Chabal were regulars.
“We’ve switched days to get spectators away from the Friday commute,” said Steve Diamond, the club’s rugby director, as he put the final touches to his selection for Sunday's game with Bath.
“We’re in a loss-making business, but if we can get it to break even, we’ll be flying. If we get 8,000 on a regular basis we’ll spend more money on the team. We’ve set ourselves a target of two or three sell-outs this season.”