Wigan skipper Sean O'Loughlin insists Camp Nou clash is not about huge crowd
SEAN O’LOUGHLIN insists Wigan’s trip to the Camp Nou is not about packing the terraces, even though there will be plenty of empty spaces.
A Super League record crowd of about 30,000 is expected in the iconic home of Barcelona – even so it may still look empty.
You can fit the competition’s highest ever aggregate attendance for a round in and still have about 19,000 spare places.
But Wigan and England skipper O’Loughlin insists it is about much more than bums on seats, as the presence of 26 high ranking officials from the football giants will testify.
He said: “It’s not about coming to fill a stadium.
"I don’t think anyone was expecting us to come and fill the stadium, it’s about taking rugby league to somewhere it’s not been before and somewhere iconic.
“On the back of that, it’s a huge plus for the sport. With the figures they’re talking about, it’s not going to feel like the stadium is full but they’re talking about more than 30,000 fans, that’s a massive tick in the box.
“Anything that gets more eyes on the sport is a big thing. For Super League, having a strong identity on European cultures is big.
“There’s lots of emerging nations coming through as well as France and the more people get their eyes on the game, the better. It puts Super League in a stronger competition.”
Wigan must have wondered what they had walked into when they trained yesterday in a monsoon. Boss Adrian Lam admitted he looked out of the hotel window and wondered if he was in Hull!
He also believed he will get more out of the trip than a day’s sightseeing.
Lam said: “I know the rugby league world is looking at us as a massive step forward for promotion of the game.
“But for us personally it is a great opportunity to spend some time together and really bond.
“These are the moments in sport and as a player where you look back at my age and realise what a moment it was.
“Even now I have got to pinch myself that we are here in Barcelona to play a rugby match.”
And Executive Director Kris Radlinski revealed the fact the game is at the Camp Nou came as a shock to him.
He said: “When we first heard about playing in Barcelona, it was fantastic – they didn't tell us it was the Camp Nou, I just thought it was a dodgy stadium on the edge of the town!
“This is one they will talk about for years to come. You don't expect rugby league to be played at the home of Barcelona.
“It's good for the game but you have to be brave and know you won't please everyone. However, if we're serious about growing you have to push the boundaries.”
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