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.