John Yates: Fans must back cup competition

Saints Player  James Roby
Saints Player James Roby

SAINTS still had a limited number of tickets available on Monday night for this weekend’s Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-final showdown against arch-rivals Wigan Warriors at Halliwell-Jones Stadium – and that is a little disappointing to say the least.

The players need all the vocal encouragement they can get ahead of the most important fixture of the 2011 season to date – yet the fans haven’t snapped up the club’s allocation of tickets as quickly as I had anticipated.

I thought the sold out signs would be been erected by the end of business on Friday – the day tickets went on general sale – but not so.

Whether the recession is to blame with people’s earnings being ploughed into more important areas than a big sporting occasion, such as mortgages, rents etc, or quite a number of cash-strapped fans simply want to cut their costs by watching the game on TV in the comfort of their home or the nearby club or pub, is any one’s guess, but there is a distinct possible that one, if not both, semi-finals will be staged in front of a less than capacity crowd.

The RFL are obviously worried otherwise they wouldn’t have issued a press release on Monday to all media outlets saying tickets were still on sale – not only for the Saints-Wigan tie – but the other semi-final involving West Yorkshire rivals, Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos.

I feel the powers-that-be should take a long hard look at the future scheduling of the competition.

I’m not suggesting changing the date of the Wembley Final, but there should be less time between rounds once the Super League clubs join the fray which helps keep interest at a peak.

In Saints’ case, they played Sheffield Eagles in the fourth round on May 7, Featherstone Rovers in round five a fortnight later. But then they had to wait two months for the quarter final clash against Hull KR – far too long a period – before this weekend’s semi-finals.

WIGAN Warriors head coach Michael Maguire and his no. 2 Shaun Wane were more than interested observers at Castleford’s PROBIZ Stadium on Sunday.

The pair were obviously running the final rule over the Saints’ side ahead of Saturday’s cup semi-final – and also keeping a close watch on Castleford in case they happen to meet them at Wembley.

Mind you with the dead-pan look on Michael’s face no one knew exactly what his thoughts were.

THOUSANDS of words have already been written about the issuing of RL Super League licences for the next three years – and I have no intention of entering the debate other than saying that the governing body faced a ‘no-win-situation’ whatever their decision and only time will tell whether the outcome will be good or bad for the sport.