Northampton buck lowering rugby attendance trend

Northampton say they will not be resting on their laurels after bucking an early-season trend of reduced attendances in the Aviva Premiership.

Unbeaten league leaders Saints sold out their opening two Premiership fixtures at Franklin's Gardens against Leicester and Bath, the second of which was on a Friday night.

But it has not been a similar story elsewhere, with Gloucester attracting their lowest regular-season league crowd for five years - just under 10,000 - when they hosted Leeds Carnegie earlier this month.

Champions Leicester were 6,000 short of a 24,000 Welford Road capacity for Exeter's visit 11 days ago, while barely 6,000 watched Saracens beat Sale Sharks at Vicarage Road the same weekend and just over 8,000 witnessed London Irish topple Madejski Stadium visitors Gloucester last Sunday.

Estimates on a general attendance fall-off are put at about 12%.

So far this season, the average Premiership attendance is 9,100 - not including the London double-header at Twickenham that attracted 75,000 - while last weekend's total crowd figure for six matches was down almost 18,000 on the corresponding weekend a year ago.

Saints, whose next home game is against Premiership newcomers Exeter on Saturday week, are pulling out the stops in an attempt to nudge the 13,500-mark for a third successive Franklin's Gardens encounter.

"At the moment we are in a virtuous circle that reflects the work being put in by all departments at the Saints," said Northampton chief executive Allan Robson.

"Jim Mallinder (rugby director) and the coaches have the team playing an exciting brand of rugby, and the players have put in a massive amount of effort to win our first three games, two of which were against our fellow Premiership semi-finalists last season.

"We knew before the start of the season that we had nigh-on record numbers of season tickets sold.

"Despite this, there are still a few thousand tickets to sell every weekend, and our marketing and community teams have worked very hard to make sure that these tickets are sold.

"We have established strong partnerships with our local media and through schemes like CashBack, our community team are able to give local rugby clubs, schools and charitable organisations the opportunity to earn money by coming to watch the Saints play.

"This scheme continues to go from strength to strength, with hundreds of people coming every game.

"So we are certainly not resting on our laurels, and although we are delighted with the way the Northampton public has responded to us, we are working hard to try and make sure that Franklin's Gardens is full for our next home game against Exeter."