Elite see season ticket sales soar

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The Independent Online

Rugby has no obvious right to feel smug about life, what with out-sized Springbok supporters duffing up Test match referees and the Six Nations' Championship suffering from a lack of competitive credibility, but England's Premiership clubs are as chipper as you like.

Rugby has no obvious right to feel smug about life, what with out-sized Springbok supporters duffing up Test match referees and the Six Nations' Championship suffering from a lack of competitive credibility, but England's Premiership clubs are as chipper as you like. Season ticket sales for the new campaign, which begins a week today, are up by 17 per cent across the 12-team élite, and all but two of the sides have reported record levels of business.

London Irish are celebrating a 208 per cent increase in season ticket sales at Reading's Madejski Stadium, very much a success dividend, following their Powergen Cup victory and top-four finish in the league. Sale, who won the European Shield and finished third in the Premiership, say sales are up by 78 per cent.

While it is as well to keep these figures in perspective – the top-flight clubs have shifted 44,812 season tickets between them, rather less than Manchester United sell in their sleep – the line on the graph is moving in the right direction. Professional union is already more popular than professional rugby league, if the union statisticians are to be believed. Anyone predicting that sort of thing five years ago would have been packed off to the funny farm.

Only Bath and Saracens, two of last season's wet blankets, are down on their respective deals. The West Countrymen, who generally fill well over half their Recreation Ground capacity of 8,200 with season ticket holders, are three per cent off the pace of 12 months ago; Sarries are six per cent in arrears. At the other end of the scale, the European champions, Leicester, have pocketed £2.3m in advance sales.

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