CASTLEFORD Tigers chief executive Steve Gill has revealed staging three home Super 8s games last season left them out of pocket to the tune of six figures.
Compared to their regular fixtures with Hull FC, Warrington Wolves and St Helens, crowds were significantly down in the new-fangled series which led to them losing out by around £100,000.
Combined attendances fell by more than 25 per cent and Gill admitted the club has struggled to understand why that was – while realising they must address the issue in 2016.
“It is a substantial loss for a club like ourselves and we aren’t exactly sure why it happened,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“Two of the games were on Thursday nights, not Sundays, while it may also have been to do with the summer holidays and people being away, but we’re really not certain. We will be working really hard to sort it out for next season.
“Obviously, we don’t know when those Super 8s fixtures will be yet but we have to make sure we get our attendances up.”
The 36-30 Super 8s win over Hull FC drew a crowd of 6,760 compared to 8,744 in March and the thrilling 17-16 success against Warrington Wolves attracted only 5,212 against a total of 7,239 just three weeks earlier.
Finally, the crucial contest with St Helens brought 5,253 when 6,068 watched the previous meeting in June.
In total, that is a drop of almost 5,000 fans over the three games and Gill added: “Maybe sometimes people think we’re in the top eight and so can relax a little.
“But they probably don’t realise the Super 8s are a continuation of our regular season.
“The Super 8s is a great concept and we did back it from the start so we’re not going to moan about it now.
“But we do need to make that shortfall up somewhere down the line and must ensure our attendances in the Super 8s next season do compare to those regular round fixtures. I think there’s a few tweaks and things needed to be done but we should be able to build the format up even more in 2016.”
Castleford were popular on Sky last season which brought both pros and cons.
For example, they played a lot of Thursday night fixtures which, throughout the competition, have struggled to attract both crowds and television audience figures.
“We had a lot of games swapped last season from Sundays to Fridays and then, as we went into the Super 8s, got four Thursday night games,” added Gill.
“We could understand why Sky wanted to screen us, though. Our story was building starting with that win over Hull and then beating Warrington the following Thursday and it looked like if we beat St Helens we could get into that top four.
“It didn’t work out, though, as we lost that Saints game and finished up in fifth.
“But I thought we did really well last season. A couple of injuries probably just stopped us from getting to where we need to be and that’s something we’ll have to work on as a club but we’re looking forward to 2016.”
Castleford, of course, had recorded their highest finish of fourth 12 months earlier and repeating or bettering that feat is their aim in the year ahead.
Gill is glad to have secured eight home games in their traditional Sunday afternoon slot for 2016 but remains unsure about the viability of Thursday night fixtures which will be included in Super League for a third successive season.
“I think they (Sky) will stick with it as there’s a time spot there for them,” he added.
“Whether I agree with it or not is a different matter.
“But we took the (broadcast) money and the sport now has to give it its best shot whether we agree or not.
“That’s our motto. Personally, I enjoyed televised games being on Friday and Saturday.”
Castleford head coach Daryl Powell has signed the likes of former Australia winger Joel Monaghan from Warrington Wolves, ex-Hull FC centre Ben Crooks from Parramatta Eels and Featherstone Rovers’ Jy Hitchcox in readiness for 2016.
Gill said: “I think we can look forward to a successful year again.
“We’ve put a decent squad together and Daryl is pretty confident we will do well and that’s good enough for me.
“We’re not far off and are taking small steps to where we want to be as a club.
“We should have some good news regarding the new stadium to announce early in January which is very exciting and it’s looking promising for the future of Castleford.
“I think, generally, it could be the best Super League season yet and any team can beat any other in this competition so there should be some great games.”