Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Falling Attendances – A Post-Season Update

In February, we wrote an article in response to a comment by Alistair Mackintosh in a Guardian article. He said that falling attendances was clearly a challenge for the whole of football and that fans have been turned off by inconvenient kick-off times, poor-quality football and the fact that matches can be watched live, for free, in pubs.

The article went on to say “They (the club) accept, though, that outside the top few and the excited newly promoted sides, the remaining Premier League clubs are struggling to maintain crowds paying high prices for the commercialised football experience”.

Having examined the figures, it was clear that some teams outside the top four had actually increased their attendances although, barring Arsenal & Manchester United (who had both increased their ground capacity) there was a small decrease overall. Four teams had suffered significant decreases though and we were the worst affected, with an average attendance down nearly 4,000.

Now we’ve reached the end of the season, we’ve looked at the final figures. These exclude the promoted teams (as there is no proper comparison) and Manchester United and Arsenal, in order to aid like-for-like analysis. The figures are taken from ESPN Soccernet again.

Surprisingly, out of the 15 teams analysed, Aston Villa, Fulham, West Ham, Blackburn & Portsmouth all showed an increase in their average attendance compared to 2005/06. Charlton stayed level while Spurs, Chelsea & Everton showed a fall of less than 500. Liverpool lost 675 and Boro 734. As in the last article, four teams showed significant falls. These were Newcastle, Bolton, Wigan and Manchester City. However, Newcastle was a small percentage compared to their overall attendance level so it’s really only the last three teams that showed significant percentage falls.

Once again, we had the biggest numerical fall although home games against Liverpool, Chelsea and the Salford Buccaneers helped to offset the figure of nearly 4,000 in February down to 2,859. Wigan showed a numerical fall of 2,452, which translated to 11.9% in percentage terms and Bolton’s fall was 1,849 (7.3%). All three clubs took some sort of action for next season. Bolton and Wigan reduced ticket prices across the board and of course Manchester City introduced the £95 Junior season card. By all accounts this has sold phenomenally well, as you would hope, but how many of these were new sales as opposed to renewals at the lower price?

If we look at the number of empty seats then Blackburn top the list, with over 10,000 empty seats per game on average; a truly shocking figure. As a consequence, Rovers made swingeing cuts in the price of season tickets. Boro were next, with 7,320 empty seats per game on average and we were just behind with 7,200. Bolton and Aston Villa both had over 6,000 empty seats per game.

As at the April deadline, it is believed that season ticket sales were down by about 25% at around 20,000. But we don’t know how accurate that figure is as the club hasn’t actually told us.

Since the move we had been able to boast the third highest average attendances in the Premiership but this season finds us in sixth place overall. Arsenal have moved to the Emirates so that was an unavoidable occurrence but we now find ourselves behind Liverpool & Chelsea. Next season, if the trend continues, we may fall even further, with Everton, Villa and Spurs overtaking us, as well as possibly newly-promoted Sunderland. Of course, since the end of the season, Stuart Pearce has left and we may be taken over so what impact that may have remains to be seen. We would all obviously love to watch City in a full and noisy stadium.


At 9:39 pm, Anonymous Wigan Blue said...

What is there to say? A new owner. It supposedly takes the money men 6 weeks to set up. We won't have anyone left.

At 12:11 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can the last one out turn the lights off.

I actually feel we as club (board, players, fans) are at a lower ebb than when we were struggling in the 3rd tier. I didn't renew my season ticket of 10 years for all the reasons AM stated, plus it just wasn't entertaining to go anymore. I can't think of many games I really enjoyed all season, win, lose or draw. With the way the take over is going, I can see us without a proper manager by the time the pre-season friendlies start. How come Newcastle manage to do it without any press coverage in a much shorter period? And their fans feel they are hard done by!

At 5:27 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an interesting correlation between scoring goals and attendences. The clubs that seem to be playing attacking football are having increases in crowds. This may seem a simplistic view but the lack of goals at home this year must be reviewed, we don't expect to win all the time but some excitement will get the crowds back in next season.

At 11:51 am, Blogger kind of blue said...

Manchester City arrived at the City of Manchester Stadium at the 'top of the bounce'. The team played Kevin Keegan's brand of 'cavalier' attacking football. To ensure Premiership survival the club invested heavily in the likes of Anelka. Looking back to that team that contained SWP, and Foe, ninth is probably the worst it should have acheived. But then Keegan realised that this brand of football was not going to work at the highest levels of the Premiership becasue the top clubs had even better players. In the end he left because City had become like all the other Premiership teams, playing only to stay in it. With seriously less investment Pearce was concerned only with maintaining Premiership status. And why? Because the difference between finsihing 7th and finishing 17th is worth more than winning the FA Cup and the League Cup put together.

Of course City fans were disgruntled about the style of football played and the lack of goals at home. But no one was jeering during the 0-0 with Liverpool, becasue after all a ppoint is a point against one of the top four. The fans broke ranks at the game against Blackburn. The team stood on the brink of achieving something they hadn't done for 26 years - an FA Cup Semi Final! - and they played without pride or passion.

In the seventies Hunter Davies wrote a book about Spurs entitled 'The Glory Game'. The game isn't about glory any more it's about money. The league tables can be predicted, with the exceptions such as Reading and Colchester, simply by the amount of money the clubs invest.

And why should City fans suddenley become excited by a corrupt Thai taking over the club? Every club in the Premiership will soon have its own mini-Abramovich. Instead of paying £6million for a bad centre forward the going rate will be £12million. Instead of players asking for £100K a week it will be £200k. The game is not about Glory any more, it is about money. And that above all the statistics and analysis is what is driving fans away.

At 12:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too renewed my season ticket, to be honest I have no idea why I did.

Eternally optimistic and annually let down.

My cousin who sat beside me decided to throw the towel in, in frustration to the distinct lack of endeavour by our club on and off the pitch.

It's no suprise to any of us that attendances are dropping, considering the way out club is run. It's not just a lack of goals, it's a lack of professionalism on their part.

This takeover has been a joke from day one! Five months of speculation since the announcement in December that they were considering options from a few interested parties (a very bad move in my opinion).

The option they are considering is from a somewhat dodgy to say the least ousted Thai Prime Minister, who if reports are to be believed will have trouble getting his hands on his Billions, if his Bank and Country has anything to do with it. We could be the only club to get adverse headlines when considering a massive takeover. If he does get his hands on City, the headlines will not cease, they will most likely escalate in our beloved tabloids. They will continue to dig for dirt, and drag us down yet further.

At the other end of the scale, Wolves and Newcastle kept their cards to thier chests until the deals were done, not leaving the press to openly speculate and rip them apart on a daily basis.

Our board would seemingly find it hard ro run a bath, never mind a Premiership Club.

This saga is having an adverse affect on the club's upcoming season, we have no manager, minimal backroom staff, a depleted squad, Important players leaving due to the lack of certainty in the clubs future...I could go on but I will save you from that!

Depressed, and in need of a glint of light at the end of this endless dark tunnel we are stumbling down.

At 2:34 pm, Anonymous Chris, Chorley said...

I've become increasing disillusioned with the premiership generally in recent years. The reasons are the growing influence of the pound/dollar/yen... and the increasingly sterile atmoshpere. The dross served up this season has just been the icing on the cake. The result is that I'm unlikely to be spending any of my time at COMS in future.

The influx of money into the premiership this season, both from Sky and the various foreign investors means that the Shinawatra money wouldn't be a boost, it would just help us to keep up with the flow.

The cost of losing games is now so great that the aim for the majority of premiership teams is not to climb the league but to not drop, and the football served up by the likes of Pearce, Moyes, Bruce etc. is symptomatic of that.

At 6:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A wing and a prayer does not a good strategy make.......


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