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How football attendances have returned to the level of the 1950s, and how much people really know about the game.

By Tony Attwood

I have often wondered just how much people know about their football clubs.  Or indeed how much some people know about football.  And whether the number of people going to games is going up or down.

It is not often that such ramblings within my brain can all be answered at once, but today I sort of brought them together.

If I may explain….

To me, the whole thing about football and why we watch it, is complex.  I know I don’t know a lot about football, since I was never able to play it well, but still I am trying to learn all the time.  Tactics endlessly surprise me, as does the development of certain players.  I certainly never saw Bellerin as a truly great full back in the making, although I did spot Coquelin as a potential first teamer from the off.  But I didn’t think much of Henry during his first few games, and though Pires was very average for his first half season.  But then I was at Viriera’s first game and said to my pal Roger, “That guy is amazing – he’s just come on in his first match, and he’s taken absolute control.  Who the **** is he?”    

So just how much do people know about footie?  The guys around me have an incredible knowledge of past players from opposition teams – and their conversation tends to bypass me.  They talk about “that fellow who played for Watford, and then went to Birmingham, central midfield, got sent off against Tottenham…” and each of them know what the other is talking about.  With such chatter I am lost, although I’m quite good on the development of progress of Arsenal in the 1930s these days, mostly because I’m writing the history of the club in the 30s on the Arsenal History site.

But my point is, some people have a lot of knowledge about different bits of football, and then I saw this set of facts from a new survey from Uefa, that has just been released.

First Arsenal and Manchester United’s websites have more visitors than any other sports club in the world.  Wow.  That is amazing.

But second, visitors spent longer on Chelsea’s website, on average, than any other Premier League club – around three-and-a-half minutes.

Now that seemed a bit short to me.  I mean, it takes the average person about four and a half to five minutes to read the average Untold Arsenal article – which is longer than the average time people spend on the Arsenal web site it seems.   So I guess most people are looking for ticket details.

I then had a naughty thought.  Maybe people spend longer on Chelsea’s site because it is harder to navigate for the getting of tickets.  Of course I have no idea because I don’t buy tickets for Chelsea, but I do know that a few years back it used to take forever on Arsenal’s site to buy tickets using a silver membership card.  Now it seems much faster.  Perhaps that figure is not so much a judge of how much Chelsea fans are “engaged” with their club as the Telegraph claimed.

But on the other hand seven English clubs (including Arsenal obviously) got more than one million visits per month on their site, which is really good going.  Eintracht Frankfurt kept people on its site the longest (six minutes) but as I say, you can stay on a site for all sorts of reasons, and engagement with the content is only one of them.  Arsenal and Man U have gained monthly visitor highs of 8.7 million visitors in a month, although I suspect that if I go onto their website five times a week I will be counted as five of those 8.7 millions, but the explanation does not make this clear.   But either way it is a big number and way ahead of the rest.

These figures come from a Uefa report – and there is lots of it to read, but if you can find a bit that interests you it is worth it. For example, Sweden and Israel had the highest growth in attendance figures this past year (both up over 40%).  I still don’t know why.

The only problem is that the designer Uefa used to present the report doesn’t know anything about the psychology of perception – which is really the fundamental study that designers of any quality work with, because it tells the designer how the audience will react to whatever has been designed.   I suspect that they probably gave Infantino’s son-in-law a few million euros to handle the job.  If not how else do you explain having part of the report presented in white text on a yellow background, just about the most unreadable combination of colours there is (although the black markings on a black background with the lights turned out comes close).  Mind you it comes at a point where the report is telling us that a decline in a team’s performance on the pitch equates to lower crowds, so I guess it doesn’t matter if no one reads that.  

One of the most interesting graphs comes quite late on (page 66 if you are interested) and it shows club revenue growth in Europe from 1996 to 2015, and it is pretty much a straight line going up.  From 2.8 billion euros to 16.9 billion euros.

That is almost a 600% increase, and an average of 9.3% a year.

The nearly straight line of increase is interesting as this tends to reflect a real growth – when growth is jerky it tends to mean it is affected by (often artificial) outside influences, which when turned off, stop the growth.

So without any other evidence one might conclude that this growth will keep going, at least for a while longer.  But it doesn’t mean that it will continue forever.  Ultimately there will be a slowdown – and I suspect it will come from one silly Uefa/Fifa trick too many.  An expansion of competitions too far, a restriction of competition too much.

Nothing grows naturally for ever.   The Premier League average attendance figure is fairly static at around 35,000 to 36,000 because a lot of grounds are more or less full for each game.   But if we look back to before 1994 we get a different picture and this is interesting because the grounds had lots of spare capacity at that time.

  League average Div 1 average Div 2 average
2016 14,847 36,461 17,578
1992 9.920 21.622 10.525
1982 9.862 22.555 10.282
1972 14.140 31.324 14.652
1962 14.051 26.107 16.132
1952 19.228 34.892 23.939
1932 11.986 21.529 12.213
1922 14.478 27.003 13.030

(No 1942 figure of course as football was suspended during the second world war).

So yes, football is seemingly more popular than at any time in the past.

But the league average attendance now is just a few hundred above what it was in 1922.  What football has done is dragged itself back to the levels of interest found in the 1950s.   What it has to do is stop the cycle repeating itself – for if it doesn’t there is an awful lot of debt that is going to have to be financed by a declining number of visitors.

It is great that football is so popular, but we can’t assume this will go on forever.

 

 Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

8 comments to How football attendances have returned to the level of the 1950s, and how much people really know about the game.

  • insideright

    It isn’t just how many people attend – it’s the price that they pay. The replacement of terraces with seating has significantly increased that level of expenditure by fans even though there is infinitely more football on TV to potentially keep them away. But the pressure is now on to at very least freeze those prices. In real terms prices will fall and safe standing will push them down further. Not good news if you haven’t yet paid for your stadium yet!

  • Usama Zaka

    I think the reason visitors spend more time on the Chelsea site could be due to their website services being only available on loan. 🙂 (like their transfer policy)

  • Goonermikey

    I found one of the more interesting facts to be that Man U had more debt than any club in the world. Here’s hoping that comes home to roost sooner rather than later.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I do visit arsenal.com 1-3 times ever week mostly to read Le Prof’s press conference news in details and sometimes to cast my vote on a topic put forward for fans to vote on it after I’ve read some of the press conf’ news on other websites who ahead of the press conf’ news posted on arsenal.com have published the highlights of Le Prof’s presser as I browsed on the internet. I also visit arsenal. com for match scheduling, results teams/players information.

    I visited Manchester Utd website yesterday for the first time as far as I can remember to know the correct spelling for some of their 1st team players to help me in one of my comments posting I posted on UA. I must say I was impressed when I saw the high quality standard of their website outlay when I googled it. I think our own website too should be improved as well. Not that it is low or bad as it is now, but still an improvement on it will be welcomed.

    I think the per say stagnant low attendances being witnessed now in the football League Stadia in England must be as a result of the cancellation of standings in football Stadia across the professional football League in England as opposed to the now sitting order that had been made compulsory by the FA in the football Stadia after the Hillsborough’s tredegy Stadium collapse that had many football fans killed.

    In his Presser today, Le Prof refuted Arsenal being linked with the signing of Belotti from Torino. But he was coy when asked about his interest in Morata at Real Madrid as he answered by listing the names of the club’s returnee strikers of: Welbeck & Akpom alongside the on ground ones of: Giroud, Alexis, Walcott, Lucas & Sanogo. These are 7 strikers at Arsenal which could negate the call for another striker buy the Gooners. But in the true sense of it, how many of these 7 strikers can be deemed as top quality strikers who can see Arsenal through this season’s PL & Ucl campaign successfully to the very end of the campaigns for these 2 titles without falling aside during the course of the 2 campaigns? To me, they are: Giroud, Alexis and maybe Lucas. The remaining 4 cannot be totally relied upon as they have a bad record of been prone to picking injuries after playing just a couple of matches. And by my own calculations, Arsenal still have a maximum of 31 games for 3 title races to play if they are to win the treble. And out of these 31, 18 of these games are PL matches they must play. The games could be many for Arsenal to play to win the treble. So if possible, why not Le Prof sign Morata this winter to reinforced our striker’s department if the funds to fund the signing is available? I think I read something like Morata saying he wants to go back to Juventus. Does Le Prof think Morata has the top quality football pedigree that can help Arsenal win the treble this season? If Le Prof believes so, let him then sign him this winter if the player is available for signing.

    I beg to disagree with Le prof’s assumption that the winter transfer window is responsible for Dimitri Payet’s forcing a transfer away from West Ham this January. I think the football authorities who established this 2nd transfer window knew in their minds that it was necessary to have the widow established before they do so.

    I think the winter window is very helpful to both clubs and players who want to buy to reinforce their teams for the 2nd half of the season campaign. It could be as a result of injury to a player or players or lost of a player’s form in their clubs is making them to want to reinforced. And if a player for any serious personal reason wants to leave, the winter window before that of the summer comes is nearer avenue for the player to ask his club to leave. I think Le Prof too for a serious LB necessity signed Monreal during a winter window. Maybe Paulista and Cazorla were also signed during the winter window but am not sure.

  • Luscious lisa

    One possible reason for the high attendance is, strangely, live Tv coverage, and wall to wall punditry. Tv now does a massive job in hyping its Tv product, resulting in higher live attendances as well as Tv viewing. There was a period, a season or two as I recall, many years ago, and long before sky, when there was no (recorded or live) tv coverage. Everyone expected attendances to increase, but they decreased. Out of sight was out of mind, presumably.
    Related to the Tv coverage, but possibly a minor factor, is the number of overseas visitors who support and attend premier games, as well as tourists. Note how many of the people dealing with touts outside the ground are overseas visitors. This is a modern day phenomenon.
    The likelihood of attendances dropping in the near future seems remote, unless there is a reduction in Tv coverage, which seems more remote.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I do visit arsenal.com 1-3 times every week mostly to read Le Prof’s press conference news in details and sometimes to cast my vote on a topic put forward for fans to vote on it after I’ve read some of his press conf’ news on other websites who ahead of his press conf’ news posted on arsenal.com have published the highlights of Le Prof’s presser as I am browsing on the internet. I also visit arsenal. com for their match scheduling, results teams/players information.

    I visited Manchester Utd website yesterday for the first time as far as I can remember to know the correct spelling for some of their 1st team players to help me in one of my comments posting I posted on UA. I must say I was impressed when I saw the high quality standard of their website outlay when I googled it. I think our own website too should be improved as well. Not that it is low or bad as it is now, but still an improvement on it will be welcomed.

    I think the per say stagnant low attendances being witnessed now in the football League Stadia in must be as a result of the cancellation of standings in football Stadia across the professional football League in England as opposed to the now all sitted Stadia order that had been made compulsory for the football clubs to have by the FA in their football Stadia after the Hillsborough’s tredegy Stadium collapse that had many football fans killed.

    In his Presser today, Le Prof has refuted Arsenal being linked with the signing of Belotti from Torino. But he was coy when asked about his interest in Morata at Real Madrid as he answered by listing the names of our club’s long term injury returnee strikers of: Welbeck & Akpom alongside the on the ground ones of: Giroud, Alexis, Walcott, Lucas & Sanogo. These are 7 strikers at Arsenal which could negate the call for another striker buy by the Gooners. But in the true sense of it, how many of these 7 strikers can be deemed as top quality strikers who can see Arsenal through this season’s PL & Ucl campaigns successfully to the very end of the 2 campaigns without falling aside during the course of campaigning for the titles? To me, only: Giroud, Alexis and maybe Lucas could I deem will last to the end of the 2 campaigns. The remaining 4 strikers cannot be totally relied upon to last through the 2 campaigns race as they have a bad record of been prone to picking injuries after playing just a couple of matches. And by my own calculations, Arsenal still have a maximum of 31 games for 3 title wins to play if they are to win the treble. And out of these 31, 18 of these games are PL matches they must play. The games could be many for Arsenal to play to win the treble if there are not knockout from two of the FA Cup & UCL titles. So if possible, why not Le Prof sign Morata this winter then to reinforced our striker’s department if the funds to fund the signing is available? I think I read something in the media like Morata saying he wants to go back to Juventus. Does Le Prof think Morata has the top quality football pedigree that can help Arsenal win the treble this season? If Le Prof believes so, let him then sign him this winter if the player is available for signing.

    I beg to disagree with Le prof’s assumption that the winter transfer window is responsible for Dimitri Payet’s forcing a transfer away from West Ham this January. I think the football authorities who established this 2nd transfer window knew in their minds that it has become necessary to have the widow established before they do so.

    I think the winter window is very helpful to both the clubs and the players who want to buy to reinforce their teams for the 2nd half of the season campaign. It could be as a result of injury to a player or players in their team or the lost of a player’s form in their team has made them to want to reinforced. And if a player for any serious personal reason wants to leave his current club, the winter window before that of the summer one comes is nearer avenue for the player to ask his club to leave. I think Le Prof too for a serious LB necessity has signed Monreal during a winter window. Maybe Paulista and Cazorla were also signed during the winter window am not sure.

  • Of the top six our sight is easily the best for navigation and also appends fixtures TBA, listing UK brodcasters, they removed the injury updates, a bit too handy for fans and opposition alike.

    I find it interesting that the more interlectual Stateside commentators either express an admration, love or frustration with “The ARSENAL”, which I think reflects accurately the sentiment experienced by nueutrals, opposition fans and fans alike externally to the UK.

    Exponential growth is an almost certain impossibility, however with audiences and accessibility through infurstructure both likely to reflect a positive for the game and leagues alike, growth is sure to ontinue into the forseeable future, with technological advancements to laxidasically follow as the significance of results grwos in tndum with the revenue within the game.

    We observe ARSENAL seated amongsth the 9 topp earsners and sharing the lions spoils of traffic, in order for the brand to grow, success on the pitch must equal that experienced off it, Old Brick Red a clear indication of what can happen if you go through a transition without a clear ethos and idea of what your futre objectives will be both short and long term if you have such lofty aspirations.

    A return to the transfer saga, or so it would be painted. Ozil waits on Arsene, Arsene waits on success, Alexis seemingly plays Puck in the wings. I trust each omplicitly, I feel the winds of change are only shifting further in our favour. Jenkinson, looks like he may not make the grade, along with Szczesny, Toral and possibly Gedian. I am loath to lose each for their worth, but it is a 25 man squad game and we need to think ahead. Debouchy can’t play, so a right back and stilll the left of defence remain a problem. Yt with Arsene and Co coming up to those backmarkers, our ability to cut through butter like a hot knife might just be the catalyst for what can and should still be a great season for the club.

    With key figure tied down to new contracts, and the likes of Wilshere, Walcott, Moreal, Mertersacher, all coming u to the final 12 months and hopefully looking to prove their worth when given the opportunity and eirie quiet stfles the clubs courtiers. Based on a fortuitous November run and an the seemingly inevitable stumble over the halfway line, serious questions are raised over Arsenals title credentials, fittingly for once it would also seem, yet making up ground with a humbling draw against Bournemouth. 8 points, 3 games, not much, but without the defensive solidity missing against Liverpool, the guile which did not manifest against United or Spurs, and fortune which was never appparent against City Arsenal will indeed need to look to themselves for answers.

    My personal question is do we have the answers required? In short my feeling is no, it is a sentiment reflected in the news of further departures. My concern is not with Ozil or Alexis’ contracts, my sole concern is suppliment the team and finding measures (personnel) which address the first and second teams deficiencies. What defecinencies many ask, others probe, but when questions are asked, answers are demanded.

    in the eleven:

    Cech, Koscielny, Mustarfi, Xhaka, Alexis and Ozil, either command the fees of or demonstrate the ability of starters, but that amounts to only 6 players of 11. Many would argue that Bellerin is certainly a starter, but my argument is relying on a young man who just entered the scond dcade of his life to guarantee a starting birth and rotation spot is brave to the point of folly. Call Bellerin a starter when we have a competent substitute by all means.

    Left back, with Gibbs still fragile yet the player more capable of keeping up with the pace of the Englis game, I would be seriously concerned that Monreal appearing to flag in the first half of the season, with Spain fairing so poorly in the off season, Monreal has spent himself in this league and Gibbs with adequate first team cover could be a great foil for a burgening talent.

    Tgat said, we are still missing a certain starter to spearhead attacks and a winger to assist with transition and fashioning chances. And moreover without the creative exploits of the resplendid Santi Carzorla, we are loathe to lose Wilshere as well.

    Arsenal have a very solid spine, reaffirmed by recent contract extentions , but what is seemingly missing are the components which allow the team to transition siftly between attack and defence.

    I call each central position a pivot and demontrate the players distribution by lines representing the movement of the player and ball comprised of their most common traits of play. We need a consumate one, the rebirth of Cesc. I would chuck Gedian in, but you know, that’s me.

    Out wide, I feel that Cohen can play in a close fixtures even a substitut appearance, bed him, he obviously thrives under pressure and pace is key at Bayern. Bennicar has gone to AFCON, lets watch, plays DM/B/CM/RM. Willock is a cool customer and with Campbell also a possible permanent mover, Qe can calmly wait and see what is delivered for a belated festive period.

    Should we offload our current peripheral players, we can expect to recieve upwards of £30m that’s one Worldy, maybe 1 and a half if you need full backs.

    Welbeck willl get his chance, how unlucky can one guy be, Diaby 🙁

    If Perez can get a run, well 6 assists and 3 goals in 6 usually would get you in so….

    Iwobi and Oxlade will both be looking to make a mark this season and can be adequate in the wings, but a spare classman wouldn#t go amiss.

    @ LB and RB well, I would be loathe to say I told you so, so lets hope he oes early, Summer will be frenetic and possibly inflation on the best performers could be something quite staggering as predicted by many.

    A key question is do we need to supliment Santi, I say yes, but with Jack and Morata got subbed and was having a bad game, his body language was ff, Benzema came on and settled it. 😀

  • para

    Tony:
    “It is great that football is so popular, but we can’t assume this will go on forever”,

    especially with TV mucking up the broadcast of the beautiful game trying to “as they say” create excitement in a packaged pre-conceived show with droll and biased commentary that bores people.

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