Often Partisan


Today my attention was caught by this article in the Birmingham Mail about declining football attendances in the West Midlands. It’s not something we as Blues fans didn’t already know about, but I think the question as to why it’s happening is worth asking.

The first thing it brought to mind was this table from an excellent blog post by the Swiss Ramble.

(credit to Swiss Ramble)

As you can see, the match day income at Blues is about a third of what it was five years ago – in essence, as a club we’ve become almost completely dependent on Sky money to keep us anywhere near to the black. This should be evidence enough that attendances are falling.

It’s almost perverse therefore that one of the factors that is causing falling attendance is Sky – with the advent of so many games on television people are now able to catch more games than ever on the box rather than at the ground; at home it’s warmer, comfier and you can drink a beer whilst watching. Couple that with the fact that it’s easier than ever to watch a game on a dodgy internet feed as well, and it’s easy to see why people can find reasons not to go.

Of course, the economic situation doesn’t help. It’s a fact that the recession has hit the West Midlands hardest, and with money tight for many people, luxuries like going to the match have to be abandoned. Whilst I think tickets at Blues are currently competitively priced, when you’re watching every penny it’s hard to justify twenty quid to watch eleven blokes fail to put a ball into the net. I think the club have done as much as they can to help – season tickets available on installment plans have made it possible for the likes of me to be able to afford them – but that doesn’t make it affordable for everyone.

I think as Blues fans we also have to consider the apathy. I know of people who don’t go for various reasons – the football is crap, the atmosphere has gone etc – but I’ve never really seen much except crap football at Blues, and “the atmosphere” has ultimately never been that awesome; it’s a sepia-tinted view of the past that every match there was singing for ninety minutes. As we get older, our priorities change – family, work etc – and it’s understandable that football has to take a back seat. No-one likes being branded a “plastic fan”, so people make excuses as to why they don’t go instead of being honest and saying “I just don’t care enough any more”. It’s nothing to be ashamed of in my opinion; things happen and life changes, it’s too much to expect people to commit every other Saturday for nine months a year, for their lifetime, to the football.

The big question is – how do we change this? How do Blues fill the stands again? It’s the $64,000 question, and I suspect if I had the easy answer the club would probably employ me to put it into place. In my eyes, the club have done a lot – prices are reasonable, they’ve actually won a trophy this year, and whilst we languish in 19th we have a nucleus of what could be a decent team. Yes, at times the football has been poor, but I don’t believe us attacking like maniacs every game would add that many to the gate.

I think the club have to continue to reach out to the community, as they do with the local schools. It’s important that the club give local kids reasons to support us and not Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool. I also believe that maybe holding a small section of the ground for cash sales on the day to encourage fans to come on spec might be an idea; like all sales, you have to make it as easy as possible for people to buy your product. It’s also down to us fans who do go regularly to encourage those who don’t to maybe attend a game or two more than they normally would – give them reasons to fall back in love with football and being a bluenose. Football is a social sport, for me it’s always been about meeting my mates and having an enjoyable time as much as it’s been about watching eleven blokes failing to put the ball in the net. Maybe the answer is for Blues to focus more on making the match a fun, social occasion than a chance to moan in person about McLeish’s tactics?

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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2 Responses to “Attendances”

  • BlueB says:

    Not sure those figures can be correct. A reduction of 66% in matchday revenues would have to be reflected in a near 40% reduction in attendance (allowing for reduction in ticket prices) – and if we assume average attendance in cpacity at 30,000 in 2005, then this would mean average attendance at 18000 this season – which is too low.

    Something doesnt seem correct there.

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