REMEMBER the days when the attendances for Challenge Cup ties were significantly higher than those of a regular league fixture?

Well here is a reminder, 35 years ago the four quarter final ties attracted an aggregate of 54,047 with 20,007 at Knowsley Road for the Saints v Wigan game and 17,424 at the Leeds v Bradford derby bolstering that.

Compare that with an aggregate of 21,187 from the weekend’s clashes with a paltry 3,311 watching Hull KR v Warrington.

Of course, unlike back then all ties are now televised with one each on a Thursday and Friday night.

But that alone does not explain the drop off.

It is a worry - because when rugby league gets some rare terrestrial national coverage it needs to present itself as a vibrant, popular sport.

The players may have delivered, but when it is played out in front of banks of empty seats it projects the wrong image.

The first thing to say is that this in not simply a Challenge Cup problem - and figures for Super League play-offs have traditionally lower than the gates for the regular fixture.

The common denominator is these games not being covered by the season ticket.

We now have a strong season ticket culture, with people forking out a lump of money at the start of the year and then a portion of those clearly reluctant to pay for the knockouts.

So what do we do?

There is an argument that prices should be halved, but if prices are slashed for cup and play-off games are we not devaluing those big occasions?

Would it be feasible to put two Challenge Cup games on a flexible 15-match season ticket. Fans would pay more up front for their season pass, but get a rebate in May and June if no home draws are forthcoming.

Given cup money goes back into a shared pot, that portion would have to be handed over - and that means clubs simply cannot give the cup games away for free.

There are pitfalls, and the extra outlay could actually make buying a season ticket prohibitively expensive for some people, but we cannot simply let this issue go unresolved.