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Aston Villa’s million fan challenge.


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This season Aston Villa Football Club has a chance to do something extraordinary, something we’ve never done before in our history; we can put a million bums on a million seats.

There are lots of ways I guess that you can measure the success of a season, and a number of them are better than attendance, but it’s still important to any successful club, and ours is no exception.

Everyone knows that attendances at Villa Park are down this season. Last years average of over 40,000 (our highest since the war) looks unlikely to be matched. The country is now officially in the midst of a recession, and in these difficult economic times attendances are bound to fall aren’t they?

Well, no not really.

UEFA Cup football at Villa Park means that there’s been a bit more choice than is usually laid on for us and the clubs decision to stay in the FA Cup a little longer than we usually do has meant that whilst the number of fans attending each game has dropped slightly, the number of fans attending in total continues to rise.

Here’s how that works out;

Last season we drew in 766,578 fans for Premiership games, but only 59,586 for cup matches. (Thanks stato!) That’s a total of 826,164 people attending games at Villa Park in 2007-08.

Not bad.

This season, up to and including the visit of West Brom, we’d sold 429,311 tickets for league matches and a whopping 171,063 for cup games against Odense, FH Harfnarfjordu, QPR, Litex Lovech, Ajax and Zilina.

That’s a total of 600,374 seats sold for the season to date.

So we’re currently 225,790 tickets short of last season’s total and thanks to Doncaster, we’ve at least ten home games to come.

At our current rate of around (or a little over) 38,000 fans a game, that means we should sell roughly another 380,000 tickets and easily beat last years total, in fact we might be looking to overtake last seasons numbers as early as the game against Tottenham on the 14th March.

That current average will leave us with around 980,000 seats sold altogether, sadly not quite enough to reach the magic number.

It is just possible for us to reach a million in our remaining games, but to do that we’d need an average of 39,963. There are big games ahead against Chelsea and Everton, traditionally we get good attendances for games against Tottenham and West Ham, and we can be sure of a sell out on the final day of the season against Newcastle, but those games need to be balanced against what’s surely likely to be lower attendances against Doncaster and CSKA Moscow.

Possible but impossible if you get my drift.

There are three groups that need to be involved if we’re to reach the million-fan mark, and first and foremost, the team are going to need to perform.

In short, if we’re going to get a million fans through the doors we’re going to need another game.

Unfortunately the FA Cup 5th round draw has thrown up an away tie on one side of Stanley Park or the other, so we’ll need to win two more games to get even a fifty-fifty shot at that one.

Of course, a win against CSKA Moscow would also guarantee us another home game and hopefully a decent crowd for that might be enough to get us there. The game against Moscow’s beast from the east is going to be a tough proposition, but like the man said, do you want to bet against us?

Secondly, Nicola Keye and the ticket office team at Villa Park have to perform if we’re to get to a million.

They’ve raised their game over the past three years to match the growing expectations of this club, and the numbers we’re talking about here are to a large extent testament to how well they’ve done.

It’s important to recognise the efforts that the club has made in pushing sales this season, they’ve recognised that the cost of attending every game is a huge outlay, especially at a time when few of us can afford not to be careful.

They’ve not been perfect, and in retrospect I’m not sure that they picked the right season to raise the price of season tickets. It’ll be interesting to see what happens on that in the summer. Since then though there have been all manner of inducements to fill Villa Park’s seats, and all sorts of incentives to continue doing so.

We’ve had three European nights at a tenner each, and reduced prices in all of the cup games and many of the league games. The upcoming Doncaster game is £15 and it’s still possible to get tickets for the Premiership games against Chelsea and Stoke for £19 each. The offer for the Wigan game of two adults and two children’s tickets for £40 is an excellent one, and the game against CSKA Moscow for £15 with a free flag rumoured to be thrown in is also good value. In addition and partly because it was raised at supporters forums, they’ve introduced the Match Breaks packages with Thomas Cook for fans coming from out of town, where you can get a ticket to our games and bed & breakfast in a single hit at a decent rate, the West Ham game for example is £76.50.

The online ticketing is easier than it’s been for years, the phone services are better and the information on tickets has improved. They aren’t perfect by any means, and we’ll all have a grumble about tickets at some point during the season, but they’re better than I can remember them ever being in the past and they’re listening.

They’ll need to continue to do that if we’re to continue emptying our wallets in this long season.

Which brings us to the most important group; us, if you’re going to sell a million tickets you need a lot of people to buy them.

It’s not easy being a football fan, it’s an expensive pastime, there’s the constant movement of fixtures by the TV companies, the 12:30’s on Sunday lunchtimes, the 20:00’s on a Monday nights, the 19:00’s on a Thursday; there’s work, friends, families, real life and all those other things that compete with your time; there’s the weather, the transport, the distance, the expense, the time and of course the bloody credit crunch. It’s amazing any of us get there at all.

But get there we do, and every Villa fan that’s been to Villa Park this season counts, whether you’re lucky enough to live five minutes away, or you come once a season from some far off land; whether you catch the big games, save up for when you can make it, always go on boxing day or only on your birthday, whether you’ve had your season ticket since 1968 and haven’t missed an away game since that time you broke down on the way to Turf Moor, or whether you sometimes go to keep your brother company, the fact is that that there is an army of Villa fans out there, and by hook or by crook, on any given match day enough of us make it to Villa Park.

It’s been made a little easier this year by what’s been waiting for us when we get there, and for me this season has been it’s own reward. If in the course of it’s success we can break this milestone and have a million people attend, I think there’ll be reward enough for the club too.

A million Villa fans is good news for everyone, good news for us because it means we’re seeing a successful Aston Villa, good news for the club because it means they are seeing their faith repaid in numbers, good news for the players because they’ll get the support they deserve, and good news for the future, because if our attendances are this good this year, who knows where we’ll be in a brighter economic climate.

I’ve no idea how sales are going for our upcoming games, but I do know that these are exciting times to be a Villa fan, and that with the interest in us currently I would hope we’ll be able to put the sold out signs up at least once or twice more this year. If we can do that, and the team can do the business elsewhere, a million is possible.

I’d hope that if we can get there, the ticket office team make a big song and dance about it, they’ll have earned the right, and so will we for our efforts, but mostly I hope we make it because it’ll mean we’ve been successful on the pitch.

A million fans, generating around £40 million pounds for the club, providing a million voices in support of the team, a nice big round number for stat fans everywhere, and for one lucky ticket buyer the honour of being the millionth.

Or not.

Over to you Ticket Office……

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Tonights win makes the remaining games that bit more important (and, by extension, desireable) ... if that was even possible. If we keep going the way we're going, we surely have to sell out the majority of league games from here on in.

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Excellent piece as normal Scott some good research in there. Just wish circumstances were such that I could help out a little more than I have and hope to.

Right then 1-3-8-19-38-48 tonight was a lucky dip ;-)

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We can break it by averaging less than 40,000 for the other nine games after the Wigan sell out.

The question marks are about the attendances for Doncaster and CSKA Moscow which are likely to be not so good. (The General has predicted around 36,000 for the CSKA game)

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Damn if Villa were only like my website,we get 2-3 million different people every month not counting the regulars.....................then again i wish each one were paying just a dollar and then i could think about buying Villa in 10 yrs time :-)

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  • 4 weeks later...

With the addition of:

Wigan 41,766

Doncaster 24,203

CSKA Moscow 38,038

Chelsea 42,585

We're now at 746,966, just 79,198 short of last years total with at least six home games to go.

We're 253,034 away from a million though which means we'd need to average 42,173 to reach it.

Difficult, but still possible even without a win in Moscow.

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If we could get past CSKA then we'd only need to average 36,148 in our 7 home games to reach the magic total.

I still have an optimistic hope that their plastic pitch will be tailor-made for our speed demons.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, sadly following our crowd of just under 40,000 for the Stoke game, the dream of 1,000,000 fans through the gates can be put to bed for another season.

The most we can get this year now is a frustrating 999,532.

We should pass last years total against Spurs though, and we look in good shape for another crack at this next year.

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  • 1 month later...

With four to play, we've now had more fans through the doors at Villa Park this season than last season, 827,812 thus far against 826,164 last season.

Congratulations to all in the ticket office; that's some going in this economic climate.

When the downturn turns upwards, provided the team are doing well or the signings are there, I can see us needing to redevelop Villa Park sooner rather than later.

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  • 1 month later...

Providing Newcastle is a sell out, then we'll have reached the mighty sum of 989,726 through the doors this season. That's just 10,274 short of a million or just 381 people a game.

A good effort, same again next year please with just a few more!

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