Wembley appearances may be synonymous with their illustrious history but a permanent presence in London is fundamental to north west rugby league side Wigan Warriors and their ambition to grow their brand exponentially.
Starved of top-level rugby league since London Broncos were relegated from Super League last season, the capital, or The Den – home of Millwall FC – specifically, will tomorrow play host to the Super 8s clash between Wigan and Catalans Dragons.
Magic Weekend has become a regular slot in the sport’s calendar where all teams play a round of fixtures on a neutral ground, but Wigan’s step of staging a home fixture on the road is ground-breaking, and only one part of a wider programme of expansion. The Wigan Warriors Business Club was launched in London in June, while the most successful rugby league team on the planet now has a base on Buckingham Palace Road to drive its commercial and community strategy.
“Expand the fanbase, tap into the wider commercial opportunity and expose ourselves to the pipeline of young talent that could be rugby league players for Wigan are the three things which are driving this,” chairman Ian Lenagan told City A.M.
Lenagan points to the success of American football’s NFL and NBA basketball in staging London events, as well the overseas tours undertaken by Premier League clubs.
“We are still a northern club but to try and expand you have got to travel outside of your own area,” he added.
“The commercial map of England shows the vast majority of financial strength is in the south east. We can already see the potential to expand our sponsorship by 50 per cent. The possibility is there to increase our fanbase by five or 10 per cent. We also think we can get a player a year out of London to join our academy.”