The buzz continues to build for The Big One at St James’ Park on Saturday, ticket sales surging through the 24,000 mark as local and national media descended on the home of Newcastle United.
Tuesday’s pre-match press conference proved a big draw as the media turned out in force, director of rugby Dean Richards and commercial director Mick Hogan addressing the press corps before the players were made available for one-on-one interviews.
Delivering another positive sales bulletin ahead of Saturday’s Aviva Premiership clash with Northampton Saints, Hogan said: “We are pleased to announce we have gone through the 24,000 mark for ticket sales, which is more than double our previous record home crowd.
“In terms of what the final attendance will be, the short answer is we’re not sure, but estimates are around between 26,000 and 30,000. Perhaps 30,000 might be stretching it in year one but we have been really encouraged by the sales numbers, and it’s important to stress that tickets are still available.
“We are pleased to be staging a curtain raiser between Newcastle University and Northumbria at 3pm ahead of our 5.30pm kick-off, renewing their long rivalry on the field, and we really believe this is an event which will take off over a longer period of time.
“We have a three-year agreement in place with Newcastle United, we hope it will become an annual event and we have already identified a date for The Big One next season. We will have to obviously clear that with Premiership Rugby and work out who we are going to be playing, but it’s an event that we want to grow.
“We set ourselves an attendance target of 20,000 in year one, and we will go some way past that. We have stated that for next year we’d like to get the lower bowl of St James’ Park sold out, which is 36,000, and I think that is well within in our capability. Then in year three we’d like to sell out the entire stadium, which would be an incredible 52,000.
“Those numbers are ambitious but achievable, and I must put on record the absolutely outstanding support we have received from Newcastle United. They have been wonderful partners in this venture, promoting it heavily and covering so much operationally, and we know that going forward we are in very capable hands with a willing and enthusiastic partner.”
Director of rugby Dean Richards echoed Hogan’s enthusiasm around the fixture, saying: “From the players’ perspective, especially our local boys, it’s like a dream come true bringing a Falcons game to St James’ Park.
“A lot of them will have grown up dreaming of playing on the turf out there, perhaps with a different shaped ball, but nonetheless it’s a huge opportunity for them and something they’re really looking forward to.”
Showing no signs of complacency despite having already beaten Northampton Saints once this season, Richards added: “Northampton will be a tough nut to crack.
“They’ll have their international boys back, the England captain is available to them and they have a point to prove. I spoke to their coach Dorian West the other day and he said not to take them lightly because their position in the table doesn’t reflect what’s going to turn up, and from our point of view we know we’ll have a tough battle.”
Tickets for The Big One are available by clicking here.