Hull FC owner and chairman Adam Pearson has expressed concern about the future of the club and the game should they struggle to entice fans back.
The Black and Whites welcome an unrestricted crowd back to the MKM Stadium this evening for the first time since Covid restrictions lifted earlier this month.
With 5,500 memberships sold, the club had been hoping to sell as many tickets as possible for the clash with Leeds Rhinos and even made tickets available for £5 to key workers.
However, Pearson is worried by the trend of poor attendances across the Super League, particularly at Wigan Warriors with just 5,555 turning up to watch Adrian Lam’s side against Wakefield Trinity at the DW Stadium last week.
The chairman warns that reduced crowds could lead to longer lasting financial troubles for the club and indeed the game.
“We are going to need to call on each and every supporter tonight and beyond as we continue to navigate the significant effects of the pandemic on our club and the sport,” Pearson wrote in his programme notes ahead of the Leeds clash.
“In my ten years of owning the club, I have never been as worried about the prospects of our game generally and the impacts that will have on the future of our club.
“We are buoyed by the return of supporters tonight, but it is hard to ignore the recent attendance of 5,000 fans at Wigan last week, which is a real warning that we risk fans being lost from the sport after such a long time away.
“It is an obvious concern for us at our club too. We hit record membership and commercial levels before Covid hit, but now we face the challenge of maintaining those levels in a very different climate.
“Our budget, including player spend, is based on circa 8,500 members and average spend per head across the club comes with it. If we cannot continue to hit that level moving forwards, then our present wage bill is someway off kilter and not sustainable in the long-term.
“We will continue to work hard to re-engage our supporters, despite some of the obvious limitations we face. Above all else we know that a competitive team, playing good football is the best way to encourage supporters back to watching rugby league.”