Best supported team in the division

Date published: Tuesday, June 8, 2010

TABLE-TOPPING Oldham RL have become the best supported club in Championship One since their move to Whitebank Stadium last month.

Figures released by Roughyeds today show that home crowds have nearly DOUBLED at Whitebank compared to those at Sedgley Park earlier in the season.

Five out-of-town home games at the Whitefield venue averaged 480 per match — par for the course across the 11-club division.

Attendances at Oldham games have increased significantly, however, since the club set up home again in the borough.

An aggregate of 3,774 fans have watched the Roughyeds’ four games at Whitebank, producing an average of nearly 950 per game.

Club officials are confident that figure will top the 1,000 mark by the end of the season with four home league games still to come — plus possible play-off ties — which include derbies against Swinton Lions and Hornets RL.

Said chairman Chris Hamilton: “Oldham apart, few teams have away followings in this division yet two of our four games at Whitebank have topped 1,000 and we were nearly there again with 923 against Blackpool last Sunday.

“Three of our five games at Sedgley Park were below 500 and for one match there we were down to 340.

“It’s a sign of the times that we are talking up attendances of around 1,000, but these are tough times. You can only compare like with like and every other club in the division would die for the crowds we are now getting at Whitebank.”

Last Sunday three Northern Rail Cup quarter-finals, each involving at least one Championship club, failed to come close to matching the 923 who watched Roughyeds beat Blackpool 40-26 to go back to the top of Championship One.

Hunslet v Leigh drew 770 fans; Batley v Sheffield pulled in 708; and Keighley v York attracted 712.

Added Hamilton: “It will take a while for Whitebank to feel totally like home-from-home, but all the signs are extremely encouraging. The fans love being close to the action and close to the players, both on the field and in the clubhouse.

“There was a terrific atmosphere at the Blackpool game and great camaraderie among fans all around the ground.”

Coach Tony Benson said: “The fans definitely played a part in our winning performance. The atmosphere was phenomenal because the crowd was so close to the pitch. It was invigorating for the Oldham players; intimidating for the opposition.”

And man-of-the-match full-back Paul O’Connor added: “We will keep coming up with performances like that if fans continue to give us that level of vocal support. It was fantastic.”

A double-header at Whitebank this weekend sees the Reserves entertain Sheffield Eagles on Saturday and Benson’s boys bidding to hold on to top spot when they take on Doncaster on Sunday.