Thursday, 22 March 2007

Atmosphere, I like a Stadium with some Atmosphere

I wrote this last October, but never got around to publishing it:

What's wrong with home crowds these days?

The highest attendance at Argyle this season so far is only 15,964 or 76.3% capacity. The average gate is only 11,788 or 56%. Or 20th out of 24 clubs.
Where has everyone gone?

There has been lost of discussion in Plymouth recently regarding the falling gates but no conclusive answer. Maybe people were put off by the Williamson/Pulis era, the 'glory hunters' from the Champions years have drifted off to Chelsea, or just that the people of Plymouth don't really give a flying...

It seems that even wins against the "bigger clubs" (eg Sunderland) don't entice people through the turnstiles. And if it wasn't for the support from the rest of Devon/Cornwall and beyond, we could all have 10 seats each.

Some people deem that it's too expensive (a ticket for the seated areas is £22 in advance and £24 on the day), which compares favourably with other CCC clubs; but does the socio-economic demographics of the South West affect people's abilities to pay?

Do people know that Argyle exists? (see
When will we be taken Seriously) The lack of exposure on TV, and on Sky Sports of all, coupled with PAFC's lack of advertising savvy, does nothing towards engraining the club into people's minds. Ok, the Evening Herald [Plymouth's local newspaper] run several pages of Argyle-related stories everyday and Ollie is doing his damned best to get the message out, but maintaining the status quo is not doing anyone any good.

Consider the knock on effects:

1 - The loss of atmosphere (at last he gets to the point!). Fewer people attending home matches means fewer people able to create a 'fortress Home Park"-type-atmosphere. It especially noticable that there is a thining in our singing squads. The Devonport have been especially quiet recently and when the crowd do sing it is in short bursts. Having said that the Barn Park end of the Mayflower and Zoo Corner are getting better.

2 - Less income and revenue from lower gates mean that the club will have less to spend on players and ground development. Argyle have done extremely well to continue operating without amassing huge debts like many other clubs, but if income declines, borrowing will have to rise and so will ticket prices and merchandising. A further rise in ticket prices will have a knock on affect with the crowd numbers.

It is a thorny issue that can be discussed till the cows come home but wil end up going round in circles, many will blame Argyle for lack of publicity and cost and others people's general apathy, but there is no easy answer. The only thing that may bring bigger crowds is success - and continued success. People are bored with consolidation and season after identical season of results. Argyle's gates were high following the double promotions and the feel-good factor that brought. But now hum-drum Championship football with a (relatively) predictatble outcome no longer appeals.

Since I wrote that, Argyle have had an FA cup run during which the gate numbers rose dramatically with each win, right up to the quarter final sell out. But typically the nexy two games saw very low gates (9 - 11 thousand). It seems that though Argyle have a big worldwide support, those who are able to get to Home Park on Saturday will be amongst the faithful (lucky, wealthy?) few.

By the way, sincerest apologies to Russ Abbot for ripping off his song, and to those who actually remember it!

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