Leeds Rhinos: Record Challenge Cup final support from fans

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LEEDS RHINOS will have their record support for a final at the new Wembley when they face Hull KR in three days’ time.

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Saturday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup showpiece will be Rhinos’ fifth in six seasons, but commercial director Rob Oates dismissed speculation their supporters could be out-numbered by Hull KR followers, making their first trip to a final since 1986.

“To date, we’ve sold 9,900 tickets,” revealed Oates. “That is more than we have since the first time we went to the new Wembley, back in 2010.

“It will top that when we are done, so it will be the best support we’ve had in this run of finals.

“Sales have been great, we are taking 40 buses of fans and retail has been fantastic – the Wembley shirt has sold out in most sizes.”

Oates added: “We have been amazed all year by the support, not just for Wembley and we knew people would come out in force.

“It is a special, special place to go and watch and a special place to see JP (Jamie Peacock), Kylie (Leuluai) and Kev (Sinfield) in their last-ever Challenge Cup tie.

“It will be emotional, it will be special and people want to be there and be part of it.

“That’s been borne out by the ticket sales. People don’t just have to buy them from us.

“They can jump on the RFL website and buy them from there, we understand that.

“We are not bothered where people buy them from, just don’t miss out.”

Oates stressed Leeds fans can still buy tickets for the final.

He said: “There is a misconception – when you look at the website plan the RFL have published – that it is all sold out, our side of the ground. But there are tickets left, £20s and £30s.”

More than 79,000 tickets have been sold in total and the attendance is already guaranteed to beat the 77,914 who saw Rhinos defeat Castleford Tigers a year ago.

In 2010, a crowd of 85,217 saw Leeds’ first appearance at the new stadium end in a 30-6 drubbing by Warrington Wolves.

The following year, 78,482 were there when Rhinos lost to Wigan Warriors and the 2012 final, against Warrington, was watched by 79,180.

Hull KR have also reported healthy sales and, as the underdogs, are likely to have the backing of most neutral fans.

But Oates said: “I’m confident we’ll take more than we have ever taken and that side of the stadium will be blue and amber right across.

“It will be great to see and I can’t wait. All in all, the build-up this year has been fantastic – great support from the best fans in the world, from the best city in the world, supporting the best team in the world!”

The final will boost Rhinos’ income for the year and help the club attract more sponsors, in the short and long-term, claimed Oates.

“In term of corporates, we are taking more people to London than we have ever done,” he confirmed. “There’s 300 sponsors and key partners coming for the weekend, across three hotels in London.

“We have been busy organising that, logistically there’s a lot to sort out and a lot of little things you don’t think of, but again we’ve had massive support all year. It was always going to happen because we’ve got a bigger corporate following than we have ever had. We are really delighted with it.”

Oates said regular appearances at Wembley have not reduced interest in the final. “You never get sick of it. It makes you more hungry for it.

“The more finals you are involved in, the more you want in the future. We have been really busy, but it is great – you want that.”

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