Monday, November 20, 2006

The End Of Live Football As We Know It?

In just over 3 seasons in our new home, The City of Manchester Stadium or the COMS as it is known, the crowds have been steadily dropping and this season we’re averaging just over 39,000. As we all know every season ticket holder is counted in the attendance figure whether they attend or not, almost certainly our average attendance would be lower if it counted actual people in the stadium!

Below is a summary of the average attendance at home for the last 5 seasons and it paints a rather bleak picture but publicly the club aren’t admitting we have a problem retaining paying customers as we are sometimes referred to;

2002/03 – 34,565 (last season at Maine Road)
2003/04 – 46,834
2004/05 – 44,915
2005/06 – 42,856
2006/07 – 39,067

From the figures above you can see how the average attendances are edging ever closer to the average we had in our last season at Maine Road and if things don’t change then there is a real risk that the average will be at the 34,000 mark by the 2008/09 season.

Since we first moved into the stadium in 2003/04 we have lost nearly 8,000 fans that’s nearly 1 in 6 fans that have stopped going for one reason or another. In any other business this would be seen as a crisis and something would have been done to arrest this alarming slide.

Why is this? If you take supermarkets for example, if they had a 17% fall in customers, like we have had, then they would have slashed prices or something similar to attract back the customer but in football the normal punter like you and me are no longer king! Television and Corporate fans come before us now in the accounts, so really the clubs aren’t too bothered if we don’t come through the turnstiles, as they still received the large income streams from the TV money, conferences held at the club midweek and the prawn sandwich brigade that treat a day out at the match just like they would attending the theatre or opera!

Now I’m not naive enough to realise that today football is big business and to survive a club needs to utilise every spare square foot of the stadium 24/7 but the heart of football, the fans, are being ripped out in the process. Its not just City, its just a symptom of modern day football and the English Premiership is fast turning into the way Baseball is in the USA. In the USA every game is shown live on TV, subscription TV, so attending a game has become a rarity rather than the norm and this is the way our game is going and an indication of this is PremPlus on SKY Television and the way American business men are buying into clubs like Man United and Villa.

Why do you think the Glaziers and Randy Lerner’s of this world are buying our clubs? It’s not because they're secret United and Villa fans it's simple because they see the future and they want a slice of the TV money they’ll get when they can access every one of the thousands of fans they have via every game being pay per view.

Lets take United for example, at the moment there attendances are around 70,000 for every home game but if they could show every home game live via their in-house TV channel (what was the first thing Roman Abramovich did when he bought Chelsea – he created Chelsea TV!) they could sell the match to probably half a million United fans around the world!

Getting back to our own clubs plight, why are attendances down? Is it the price or is there a more deep-rooted problem?

To be fair to City the pricing at the club is one of the lowest in the Premiership and if you renew early (2 or 3 months before the current season ends!) then you’ve not seen a price rise in the last few years. However, even though prices are relatively low compared to clubs around us, in reality the price of the modern day game has and is pricing the average working man out of the game. If you wanted to take your two kids to the game nowadays, with refreshments and a programme you wouldn’t get much change out of £80 and for much less you could go and see a film at your local cinema and eat out afterwards! To back this up the price of going to the cinema has risen by only 15% over the past 10 years whilst the cost of going to the game has gone by at least 100% and much more at some clubs!

Another credit for City is the way they are treating the younger fans and although it’s probably a case of bolting the barn door after the horse has bolted it should still be recognised. Most games this season a concession ticket can be bought for £5 and my son’s season ticket this year only cost £90! To me this shows that although publicly the club won’t admit they have a problem, privately they are doing things behind the scenes to try to arrest this slide in attendances as they give out thousand of free tickets each game to local schools which might generate future fans and are canvassing ex-season ticket holders to find out why they haven’t renewed.

One thing I must add is that it cannot be helpful to the players to be playing at home in a stadium that is low in number and low in atmosphere and to think this is probably the best run we’ve had at home since we’ve moved to the COMS, yet there’s lots of empty seats. If you can, get to the game and cheer the lads on!

Keep the Faith

Colin Howell


At 1:39 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like what your doing but I see this posting as a dig at the club in response to last weeks MUEN articles. Don't sink to their level. Every word of the article is true and must be applauded but I fear articles like this will just make the club anti the trust. Yes you did try and applaud the the at the end but I think the damage was already done.

At 3:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The current average gates are part a reflection on how the team are playing but also a factor is City made it very easy for supporters to buy two years of season tickets at the end of the Maine Road era, the extra seasoncard holders have faded away.
Another factor is five of the seven home games have been on TV and played at times other than three on a saturday and we are still to play Utd, Chelsea & Liverpool at home which will boost the average

At 3:44 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, as you know we welcome input and feedback from all City supporters. The press intrusion last week was not of our doing and this article is not a dig at the club. We have heard from many supporters who are concerned at this situation as we are too. We feel that a trust would be able to work with the club towards tackling these sort of issues. Our offer to meet with the club has been on the table for three months and we look forward to meeting with them when we will present to them our proposals for the trust and hopefully this will be the start of constructive dialogue. Please send me an e-mail to and we can continue the debate.

At 8:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought my first ever season ticket in our first season at the new stadium but I found the atmosphere so shockingly awful I didn't even bother continuing after xmas. For me the atmosphere is more important than winning, the facilities etc and the quality of football.

At 9:57 pm, Anonymous Colin Howell said...

Your quite right, the atmosphere is a major turn off for for alot of fans and needs alot of thinking to make the "COMS" special like Maine Road was when the old place was packed to the rafters!

At 12:46 pm, Blogger Carl said...

I gave up my season ticket - had one since I was 10 (I'm now 38) - last year when my third and fourth child arrived at the same time (that was a shock I can tell you!).

My eldest lad is seven this weekend and he's been to 4 City games in the last couple of years. City have lost all of them.

Every weekend he asks me how the Blues have got on but then he asks me about the Rags and always "did Rooney score?"

You see at his age impressionable boys need heroes. Good players who play well for their club and play for England. These players get lots of media coverage and are rarely involved in the last game of the night on MOTD.

When I was his age City were playing well and had 2 or 3 regular England players.

I wrote to Wardle about two months ago telling him that unless results improve in the long term and we start attracting the kind of player that kids can idolise there's a danger of a whole generation of potential blues turning in to self-satisfied rags. Despite the club's citizen's charter I've had no reply.

At 2:13 am, Anonymous the_spoon said...

i don't believe you're having a dig at the club,and your points are well made, but on the subject of american sports being live i know(and i accept my information may be old) that all games are shown live, exept in the state where they are being played, this is done to protect the attendance of the game, while making the game accessable to all fans of the team. not really possible in england of course but it show our american cousins understand the importance of fans through the turnstiles

At 12:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point about American Sports which I wasn't aware of. The Yanks could also show us a thing or too about spreading the wealth and best players around the teams in a more even way than football (worldwide) does which means leads to a more competitive league where no team really dominates.

At 5:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what we are also seeing is the fruit of losing a couple of generations of fans through our failures and mediocrity over the last 30 years. Newcastle have endured a similiar run of no trophies, however they are a one- club city and have in the last 10-15 years come 2nd in the Premiership and had some truly world class players and big signings, played in the champions league on a number of occasions, and reached two F.A. Cup finals all of which have increased their profile and brought fans back to the club. But even Newcastle's attendances have started to slip with just 48,000 versus Pompey last Sunday. It appears that our supporters cannot be taken for granted any longer, and i for one was very embarrassed to see the swathes of empty sky blue seats against really hit me as I am like many city supporters very proud of our history and support and hate to see even a few hundred empties...the fact that it was in excess of 12,000 really identified the extent and deperation of our plight. There are lots of reasons proffered as to why: saturation/football on a downward curve after overkill...lack of atmosphere, boredom with the football...the realisation that we will never be able to compete or penetrate the top 4 clubs except on a 'one off' basis without massive investment and then if we get that investment how enjoyable is it anyway in the knowledge that really the wealth is just theft of something others in the cannot get or afford? Not a meritocracy...even when Everton had an amazing season and got 4th spot they didn't qualify for the Champions League outright. Also even if you get into the top 6/7 and qualify for the Uefa Cup, how attractive is that comp anyway playing in stadiums over half empty, not breaking even financially unless you reach the latter stages and the toil of travelling around europe with the strain on your limited squad and to the detriment of your Premiership form. Spurs fan-base wise are similar to City but are financially a lot better off and have a very big squad, however even their Premiership form has nosedived this season when involved in Europe. The only hope is that someone like City, Everton, Spurs, Newcastle can somehow steal into a 4th spot finish to qualify for the big stakes of the Champions League. However sustaining your form in the subsequent Prem season as well as playing in the CL would make it difficult to replicate or better that finish the year after. Even the FA Cup that great bastion of English football where anybody can supposedly beat anybody is when analysed coldly somewhat of a myth...i cannot remember the exact statistic but its something like since the early 1980's the final of the FA. Cup has always been contested by one of the following 'big clubs' Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham, Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle, Manchester City...but in recent years it is mostly been between the 'big four' of Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea. In reality when we have stopped dreaming of success and sobered the fact is that what we are left fighting for is the scraps from the rich mens' table, The League Cup, a plucky top 7th finish, an odd win here and there against a top-four club. Incredibly we have only reached two league cup quarter finals in the last 12 years in a competition that is last on the list of top 6 teams, and more often than not that too is won by a major club. Has a poster mentioned above i can only think we can rejoice in our support and the atmosphere at games is a major priority for my enjoyment of the matchday experience, and i can only think we'd be better and a more intimidating opposition should we improve the atmosphere somehow and play in front of packed houses. How you attract the best part of 50,000 people to be motivated and have passion about MEDIOCRITY whilst parting with £50(ticket, programme, food/drink, travel) every week or so with absolutely no prospect of challenging the elite is a very difficult connundrum to work out. I love Manchester City, City, our club more than I love most people and am obsessed by their image/portrayal and what is said about them. We get patronised all the time in the press and media for many different factors and it drives me crazy and gives me the desire to stand up and be counted to not let our beloved club die or shrivell up/recoil into a frightened child. We are Manchester City for fucks sake, where is our pride, pride in our sky blue shirt, pride in our City of Manchester. Manc Pride, Manc Passion, Manc Club. We'll never die we'll never die.

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