Sharks eye big game rewards
June 30, 2010
Sale are out to build their fan base © Getty Images
Sale Sharks will attempt to boost their flagging profile next season by taking a Premiership game to a Premier League football ground, following in the footsteps of Saracens, Harlequins and Wasps.
The Sharks endured a miserable 2009-10 season, narrowly avoiding relegation, and newly-installed chief executive Mick Hogan believes that building a fan base in the north west is vital to restoring the club to the heights achieved when they won the Premiership in 2006.
Saracens made a success of their move to Wembley Stadium last season, playing three Premiership games at the home of English football as well as a fixture against South Africa, while Harlequins and Wasps have made Twickenham their home for one-off matches in recent seasons, Quins pulling in 78,000 fans for 'Big Game 2' in December.
"In terms of staging a one-off big game, negotiations are already under way and I think it's something that this club should be pressing ahead with," Hogan told the Manchester Evening News. "It would be a pretty bold statement if Sale Sharks could pull 20-25,000 people to a game next season.
"In terms of venues, we are looking at football stadiums and we are quite lucky that in the region we've got a number of Premier League football grounds where we could take a fixture like this to though some will rule themselves out for a variety of factors."
Manchester United's Old Trafford and Manchester City's Eastlands are reportedly unlikely to be targeted, with Bolton's Reebok Stadium and Wigan's DW Stadium more closely fitting the bill. As for which game they will choose, the Sharks are keeping their options open.
"As for opponents, there are several issues to take into account," Hogan said. "In rugby nion, travelling fans are not the factor they are in football or even rugby league so our opponents do need to be carefully considered.
"But this is our chance to create a special event so we could look at say the Leeds game and possibly bill it as the War of the Roses or we could go for champions Leicester, who have the most fans and the highest profile, or we could even look at opponents who play attractive rugby. There are a number of ways we could approach it. Ultimately though, relying on the away team to half-fill the stadium isn't going to work."