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The attendance question


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by AVFCinWales

Malcolm analyses the attendance debate and crunches some numbers in the process.

I often see calls for fans to turn up and support the team. I see others querying where those who said they would return when Ellis left are, and so on.

Well thanks to someone I barely know in the media who is doing an analysis on crowds for the FA Cup, I saw several bits of information on Premiership crowds, so I looked deeper.

The big 3 are who ?

Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea or Liverpool ?

No, Man Utd are top, Arsenal are next and then comes Newcastle with an average of around 50k.

Next come Liverpool then Chelsea and so on. Villa do OK in 9th. Only Man City beat them in 6th just below Chelsea in outperforming last season attendance wise.

We aren't that bad really, until you take into account our capacity percentage and then you can see the differences.

It's the percentage attendance against capacity that is telling. So Portsmouth who are nearly bottom in 18th on averages of 18k have a capacity percentage of 97.2%. Villa's is 82.5% yet Man City's is only 81.8%.

So, yes, compared to Newcastle our attendances are poor compared to our capacity but whilst some denigrate Newcastle and their management and owner, its not bad for them knowing even if you don't get it right attendances remain at 98% pct and 3rd on average.

Spurs another team Villa are often compared with are one position above us in average attendance with identical figures, except their percentage is one of the best in the table at 98.2%. As is West Ham's, one position above Spurs with a percentage of 98.1%.

In other words, we aren't that bad as an average but we remain well below our capacity. Why is that?

Poor results and performances have to be a big factor. A few wins from here on in and my betting is we will be doing much better.

That said, one of the side issues of the journalist's research was how Villa are so poor in attendances over recent times in comparison to the potential support available in the local area. Fans like me, who do not live on the doorstep, don't count. We tend to be the icing on the cake. The real problem for Villa is that they have one of the biggest areas of untouched support in the country, the biggest local capacity of any ground, yet a poor attendance to capacity ratio.

You could of course argue that's because the ground is too big for the fanbase, which it may be, as Villa even in the really good recent times didn't have that good a percentage. It was far better than today's, but not near that of the majority of the Premiership, including all the newly promoted sides.

So next time there is a call to arms, can those who do it please demand any locals going down take their kids, next door neighbours and so on. Please ask your work-mates why aren't they going down, or if they are why they aren't taking their kids and wives :)

The problem Lerner's PR men need to address now is to find a way to generate more local support. They know that of course, and no doubt a competitive side for a few months will help no end.

The other thing of course (and I realise this is a bit cart before the horse) is that to really be a top 4 side we need either a backer unlike anyone but Chelsea have, or Randy Lerner needs to increase our capacity by 15 or even 20k.

Oh and of course he needs to achieve a percentage of over 98.5%, like Newcastle have.

Bottom of the league Blackburn and Wigan with a percentage of about 70% are nearly 10% below anyone else's

Well I found it interesting :)

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It is very interesting, but one thing you don't mention is ticket prices. It you include prices the picture is even worse for Villa, since we have some of the lowest prices in the PL. Tottenham have a lot better percentage, but that is combined with very very high prices - which makes it impressive.

Bottom line is after all success and/or image. If the team is successful more people will come. If the club has the right image it will also draw people. Let me give you an example. FC Copenhagen is today a very successful club, but used to be a club in turmoil, with very few attendances. The club got its act together and raised the clubs profile and tried to identify to club with the city, make a slogan "the team of the city". They introduced a lot of initiatives to bring the fans a more "whole" experience, they stated that the club had ambition and the acknowledged the fans importance. After most games you see the Chairman going over to thank the supporters. FCK now averages over 20,000 a game, which is a lot in DK, when 3-5,000 to a top flight games is normal.

So I will say it is about profile/image and ambition - things that have not been shown at VP for 25 years. It will take some time, but at soon as we start to get it right the fans will come. And they will come in numbers.

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The big problem is that so many die-hards have stopped coming, first they dropped the season tickets, then they came to less and less games until finally Ellis had run the club so poorly people voted with their feet. The problem is that for many people they have found other things to do instead of coming down VP, and it will take a while before these people find the time to come down. Its not the case that Mr Learner needs to give them a reason to come down more a case of them re-discovering the passion they once had for the club again.

I suspect with a good finish to the season and a little bit of activity in the summer some of those floaters will come back. it will be a gradual thing but it will happen.

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The key to this is season ticket sales

I think I'm right in saying that, in modern times at least, Villa have never sold more than 50% of capacity to season ticket holders. therefore Villa require always a big "walk up" figure to get a full house, or indeed anything near a full house.

Liverpool on the other hand have, to all intents and purposes, sold every single home seat to season ticket holders. UNless you hold a season ticket, it is next to impossible to get into the home areas at Anfield.

Naturally, this creates a demand for season tickets, even from people who dont go to every game, or dont intend to, as without one they wont even get into the games they want to. I believe they have quite a long waiting list. I have a friend who is a seson ticket holder there and he goes to something like 10 games a year.

So the way to more full houses is to icnrease the ratio of ST holders from its current figure to something well over 70% (lets say 30,000 for the sake of argument, 10-15,000 more than at present). Doing so will pretty much guarantee a full house every week

This is the challenge facing the club at the moment, and I will be itnerested to see how it develops

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In regards to season ticket sales at Anfield. I don't think they desire selling season tickets to 100% of home fans because then you lose the foreign fan or the walk up fan and obviously the fan that can't afford the season ticket. I think something like 80% season ticket and 20% walk-up is the most desireable because you always want to have SOME seats for the likes of foreign supporters clubs and the like.

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It is very interesting, but one thing you don't mention is ticket prices. It you include prices the picture is even worse for Villa, since we have some of the lowest prices in the PL. Tottenham have a lot better percentage, but that is combined with very very high prices - which makes it impressive.

That's not surprising, and I doubt that relative economic differences between the South East and the rest of England account for all of the difference in ticket prices.

The high percentage of available tickets that are sold creates scarcity and thus pricing power for Spurs. It also breeds season ticket sales, since, with more and more sellouts, the only way to assure yourself (at any reasonable price) of a ticket to each game is to buy a season ticket.

The choices essentially boil down to: sell not that many tickets at a low price (this is if there's not much demand) or sell a ton of tickets (as many as your ground capacity allows) at a much higher price. I think I know which one is preferred.

Season tickets should perhaps be more heavily discounted than they are now. While this move may in and of itself reduce revenue, it would increase the scarcity of the single-game tickets and thus their prices, which would later allow the season ticket prices to be increased.

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Comparing us to Newcastle isnt really fair.

If we were a Premier League club only one other club within an hours drive in any direction then we would get 52k a week.

In regards to season ticket sales at Anfield. I don't think they desire selling season tickets to 100% of home fans because then you lose the foreign fan or the walk up fan and obviously the fan that can't afford the season ticket. I think something like 80% season ticket and 20% walk-up is the most desireable because you always want to have SOME seats for the likes of foreign supporters clubs and the like.

Arguably less. Manchester United could sell 76,000 season tickets easily but they chose not to. The reason? Well, the day trippers spend more. A season ticket holder might have a pint at the ground and a pie at half time, he might not. He might buy a program, he probably wont. You daytripper will spend more money on other stuff like the program, refreshments, the gift shop, stuff for the kids (etc)

If you can get ten, twenty or even thirty thousand people spending "more money on other stuff" in your home games (depending on cup draws, this could be as many as 25 times a season?) it really does add up.

It is a bit different for the Villa admittedly. We need a bigger base of season ticket holders before we can rely on walk up punters to fill the remaining seats, but the Manchester United model of matchday revenue collecting is the ultimate goal.

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Comparing us to Newcastle isnt really fair.

If we were a Premier League club only one other club within an hours drive in any direction then we would get 52k a week.

...

Is this sarcasm Rev? :? Our nearest Premier League club is Sheffield Utd...

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good article Malc and you are rioght size counts, it means you have a potential spend of £10m plus a year over and above us ...

However the problem at Villa is the maxuium we can get to 52k and whilst that is probably enough it is short of my ideal - 60k ....

the argument for moving as passed unfortunatly but because of the size of the witton Lane we are now limited.

the question is whether we should move to 52k now ...

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Rev has a point, though. Newcastle is the only club around for a population of around 800,000 people (Newcastle plus all the towns around it.

Sunderland, Hartlepool, Boro, Darlo are all chuffing miles away.

Villa has a whole load of clubs on the doorstep. Although Brum is 3 times the size of Newcastle, it also has ALbion and Blues within 3 miles of VP. And then Wolves and Cov and Walsall pretty close by too. There is basically no competition for Newcastle in their area at all.

That's not to play down the excellent support Newcastle get, but it is a factor.

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In Newcastle, football is the religion.

Let's be fair, it's a (largely, although improving) dump.

They have nothing else to do up in scotland but follow football, it's the culture. That's why they have such gullible yet passionate and commited fans.

Whether it's a good thing or not, you won't find that anywhere else to anything like the same degree. It largely derives from geographical location and social class, but they are an admirable set of fans in terms of the support they give their club.

I hate them though, vermin.

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They got a sort of social momentum going in the late eighties, and now it's no more acceptable for a Newcastle fan to miss a home game than it is for them to wear a coat.

It's strange, but I think there's a point somewhere in attendance where some sort of breakthrough is made, and once you get there the tickets start to sell themselves.

Malc, are there any obvious breaks in the figures ? Do they fit into bands ?

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:shock:

Interested in the stats. If you read the blogwars with the Toon and Yid fans, you'll see that they have an at best idealistic, at worst blind devotion to their clubs. Both sets of fans see only fabulous things happening at their respective clubs despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Is that good or bad? I don't know, but if it puts bums on seats it must be good for the accountants at least. Villa are a bit like Man City - you often get the impression that the fans support the club because they enjoy a good moan...certainly the negativos who sit around me in block M4 seem to hate every player to pull on a claret and blue shirt.

Maybe St. Martin's real job is to turn all that shite around.

Doc

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Good point DocBowles. What's more desireable ? A Villa Park with 35,000 supporters all cheering the team on or 42,000 people with 20,000 of them slagging the team off. I know money is money and a moaners money still counts but if they're just waiting for Bouma to hit row Z or Angel to trip over the ball so they can moan in between anti-nose songs then maybe we need to wait til the 'supporters' want to come back :)

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Malc, are there any obvious breaks in the figures ? Do they fit into bands ?

err, didn't I say something like I'll stop here because if I go on it jumps into the realms of fantasy and opinion analysis.

no, well I should have :)

Yes there are several trends and groups and plenty of suppositions that can be put together, but most of what I put originally I could drive a train though so anything else I'd surmise :)

I suppose there are several 'safe' points, like all the 'big' clubs are at over 98% pct, so Chelsea and Liverpool could be construed to need bigger grounds.

Strangely all the promoted clubs are up there too at 95% + pct, but of course all have smaller grounds, much smaller.

Villa and Man City remain the poorest pct based on size and history, although you could suggest in City's case that is because they now have a bigger stadium, and their present pct in their old one would be much higher around 90%, they are doing better but are in a bigger stadium so have a lower pct.

It could be assumed as Manchester can support two 'big clubs well, one especially and they have the two Mersey clubs on their doorstep so to speak, weakens the argument viz Villa vs Newcastle, one having an isolated fan base while we have several other clubs in our local. Villa's pct considering they have no Premiership competition for miles would suggest an opportunity is passing the club by, should Blues, Albion, Wolves return and pinch corporate and local support.

Why having achieved a European Cup win are we not attracting a bigger fanbase, on a regular basis, Ellis and his administrations, yes partly but even when winning the league and European Championship Bendall was in charge and we didn't always fill the ground, far from it.

Some, not me, as its inflammatory, would suggest Villa just aren't as well supported locally as most clubs. Spurs for instance, have won little recently, have spent regularly and have been at 98% pct for years.

Teams like Blackburn have won the European Cup, have a great tradition and aren't doing too bad this season but remain only beaten for the lowest spot by Wigan but both clubs fit in this Manchester Merseyside ring, something Villa don't have.

Amazing stuff some of it especially when you then look into the ethnics of the local support base, but I'm not going there no way :)

Personally I don't think Villa are as well supported as many top clubs. Yes we have as fanatical a fan base and as vociferous as you can get, but its not as big.

I spent my first 29 years living in Brum supporting them home and away with my wife when she became my wife, through all the lower leagues, through her early pregnancies, to every League cup final, every FA cup final, every European match and every European Final.

I did much of it with similarly entrenched fans, but while I did, I knew 10x as many Villa fans around me who didn't, who went to the home cup matches, the big League matches and so on. I did this through some of the toughest times, physically as a supporter, often being involved in fights, in night stays in the local nick, in open battles with opposing fans and even police, and I can remember Old Trafford and Man Utd in the second division with 25 k crowds, whilst Anfield rocked at capacity and Clough kept winning in Europe with 30 k crowds.

The new owners have a huge job on their hands to both fill the ground every week, let alone extend the support further to fill a 50k capacity ground, they have made an improvement but have a huge task on their hands a winning side battling for Europe will help, but they know that.

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Could it be as simple as a large percentage of the local population not having the disposable income to support the team ? Or could that at least be a contributory factor ? Although you'd think Liverpool or definitely Everton would have the same/worse problem(s).

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