The why’s and wherefore’s of our dwindling support

0_George-Fowler-Ipswich
The original question on ShotsWeb asked why our attendance of 1,539 versus FC Halifax at the weekend was so low and 500 or so down in contrast to our opening home fixture.

At first I thought it inconsequential but as the discussion gathered pace, I learned some interesting facts and figures that put some meat on the bones.

My job as a writer is to combine these ‘facts’ figures and opinions together in one concise and subjective post.

But before I do that, I sought to find answers online as to why football attendences generally are on the wane.

My first port of call was this paper or dissertation which put me off a bit as I was told in the preamble:

Clubs at the lower echelons of the English footballing hierarchy, like Millwall and Brighton are faring even worse (Gupta, 2013), while many of those in the Scottish League are suffering a similar fate (Watt, 2014).

Lower echelons? Brighton are establishing themselves as an EPL club the same as Bournemouth and Millwall are hardly struggling in the second tier are they.

I’m going to post what I consider the most salient points from this article for the reader and link it should they want to read it in more detail.

Reasons For Decline In Football Attendances Essay

Causes of decline
The late 2000s recession

In 2008, the British economy officially entered into a recession. Unemployment rose – particularly among the working classes (the social class in which football fans and audiences have traditionally been located), downward pressure was placed on wages, and, as a consequence of growing inflation, disposable incomes were squeezed (Wilson and Piekarz, 2015).

However, there is some research that indicates that football consumption is in fact, price inelastic, even in the higher price brackets (Forrest, Simmons and Feehan, 2002). What this means is that avid football fans will continue to purchase tickets and attend matches if the relative price increases (as occurs during a recession) even if their economic circumstances should, according to a rational analysis, inhibit this. The price inelasticity of football attendance has been explained according to the theory of fandom (Goldblatt, 2014). This refers to the fact that football should not merely be understood as a game, but as a subculture comprised of a community of consumers whose identities and interests are reinforced through the consumption of the activity of which they are a fan (Harris and Alexander, 1998). Many individuals are long-term fans of football teams (or, of the game in general); their history of interaction with the sport can often be traced through familial lines. In such instances, expression of fandom continues regardless of obstacles such as affordability and economic context.

Strategies to boost revenues from ticket sales

Many of the factors that may be driving reduced sales are, to some extent, out of the control of the football clubs. Therefore, novel or innovative strategies may be necessary to increase sales. Drawing on the tactics used by American sports teams faced with declining sales (reported in Howard and Crompton, 2004), the following strategies are recommended to UK football clubs to boost revenues from ticket sales.

  1. Use differential pricing. Differential pricing is a pricing strategy in which the price of tickets is adjusted according to the quality of the teams involved in the game, the weather or the time of the season (Dobson and Goddard, 2011). If low audience numbers are expected due to, for example, poor weather or the economic climate clubs are advised to drop prices in order to boost sales.

  2. Flexible season tickets. This involves offering fans the ability to tailor season ticket packages to their needs and has been found to be highly successful in boosting sales (Howard and Crompton, 2004).

  3. Facilitate resale markets. Clubs are advised to develop ticket facilities that enable secondary sale of already purchased tickets. This will allow individuals facing financial difficulties to recoup losses by selling tickets to other fans.

That last piece I found more of interest, fathoming how it might apply to the running of our beloved Aldershot Town.

Streaming as such is hardly going to affect us and to read a report on our games you have to wait a day or two (pointing the finger @Official Shots) to read a report and in contrast to ther NL clubs, photo and comment is sincerely lacking; look at clubs like Hartlepool and Stockport, or even Dover and how they report on their games in a promotional way.

A side-salad debate perhaps but an aspect of ATFC where I feel the club could do so much more.

So let’s tackle the original question and see how it is that the Halifax gig was so poorly attended. I’m going to use quotes from the ShotsWeb clientele along the way so those of you reading will know who said what.

Why So Low?

Why such a low turnout today no atmosphere and the worst second half have seen this season was it down to the bad ref on tuesday night

Selected responses:

Just under 1500 at the last Woking “”Home” match. The point of this post is what? We are not Man City! To be honest, Halifax are also one of the biggest teams in this league and if they can only get just over 60 “Away” supporters, at least one of who I know lives locally. I think it tells its own story.

It’s that time of year

Because there will always be an increased attendance for the first game of the season and this season we had the added interest of a new manager’s first game.

Why so low compared to the opening home game?

Barnet had less than 900 home fans for Chesterfield, and they play in a so-called modern stadium, and they play decent football. Agree playing our fifth League game in the middle of August is too early, noticed loads of regulars missing yesterday, a very popular week to go on holiday.

More comment later. Let’s look at the comparisons of average home attendances and the populations of the boroughs and towns in the National League. I’d already stored the past three seasons home attendences of each club on CTS and so far as the populations go, these are the latest I could find, excluding Ebbsfleet which is a bit of a conundrum as a town that ‘expects to have 40,000’ sometime in the future!

Aldershot Town

Aldershot_Crest

36,300 (2011)

2017-2018: 2,429 (National League)
2016-2017: 2,296 (National League)
2015-2016: 1,610 (National League)

Barnet

150px-Barnet_FC.svg

387,803 (2017)

2017-2018: 2,113 (League Two)
2016-2017: 2,260 (League Two)
2015-2016: 2,358 (League Two)

Barrow

barrow-afc

67,099 (2017)

2017-2018: 1,181 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,293 (National League)
2015-2016: 1,336 (National League)

Boreham Wood

2876

31,074 (2011)

2017-2018: 655 (National League)
2016-2017: 477 (National League)
2015-2016: 544 (National League)

Bromley

Bromley-F.C.

331,096 (2018)

2017-2018: 1,445 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,113 (National League)
2015-2016: 1,398 (National League)

Chesterfield

150px-Chesterfield_FC_crest.svg

104,400 (no year given)

2017-2018: 5,354 (League Two)
2016-2017: 5,929 (League One)
2015-2016: 6,676 (League One)

Chorley FC

chorleyfc

33,424 (2001)

2017-2018: 1,098 (National League North)
2016-2017: 1,405 (National League North)
2015-2016: 1,003 (National League North)

Dagenham and Redbridge

3696

210,711 (2017)

2017-2018: 1,464 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,379 (National League)
2015-2016: 1,979 (League Two)

Dover Athletic

Dover-Athletic-Logo

115,803 (2017)

2017-2018: 1,355 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,295 (National League)
2015-2016: 1,029 (National League)

Eastleigh

Eastleigh_F.C

130,498 (2017)

2017-2018: 1,960 (National League)
2016-2017: 2,242 (National League)
2015-2016: 2,015 (National League)

Ebbsfleet United

EUFClogo

2017-2018: 1,563 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,314 (National League South)
2015-2016: 1,302 (National League South)

FC Halifax

843

431,479 (2017)

2017-2018: 1,726 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,810 (National League North)
2015-2016: 1,546 (National League)

Harrogate Town

Harrogate_town_badge

157,300 (2014)

2017-2018: 1,134 (National League North)
2016-2017: 896 (National League North)
2015-2016: 689 (National League North)

Hartlepool United

Hartlepool_United_FC

92,028 (2011)

2017-2018: 3,350 (National League)
2016-2017: 3,788 (League Two)
2015-2016: 3,890 (League Two)

Maidenhead United

Maidenheadunited

67,441 (2017)

2017-2018: 1,475 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,012 (National League South)
2015-2016: 482 (National League South)

Notts County

notts-county-fc

(Nottingham) – 289,301 (2011)

2018-2019: 7,357 (League Two)
2017-2018: 7,911 (League Two)
2016-2017: 5,970 (League Two)

Solihull Moors

12335

213,933 (2017)

2017-2018: 879 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,013 (National League)
2015-2016: 671 (National League North)

Stockport County

c814fd11cc2e3b9156e05be782f0f392

291,045 (2017)

2017-2018: 3,433 (National League North)
2016-2017: 3,477 (National League North)
2015-2016: 3,082 (National League North)

Sutton United

Sutton_United_F.C._logo

41,483 (2011)

2017-2018: 2,214 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,660 (National League)
2015-2016: 1,043 (National League South)

Torquay United

220px-TUFC_1986_new_crest

65,245 (2019)

2017-2018: 1,731 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,888 (National League)
2015-2016: 1,803 (National League)

Woking

150px-Woking_FC_logo.svg

101,129 (2017)

2017-2018: 2,024 (National League)
2016-2017: 1,430 (National League)
2015-2016: 1,634 (National League)

Wrexham

Wrexham

135,600 (2017)

2016-2017: 3,892 (National League)
2015-2016: 4,616 (National League)
2014-2015: 3,264 (National League)

Yeovil Town

175px-Yeovil_Town_FC_logo.svg

41,871 (2011)

2018-2019: 2,953 (League Two)
2017-2018: 2,941 (League Two)
2016-2017: 3,567 (League Two)

One of my initial realisations from all of this that previously wasn’t of so much concern was how small the town of Aldershot  is. Farnham, where I grew up is around the same size now.

The population has grown rapidly from 1901 (8,181 residents) and 1911 (9,265 residents) to the 2011 Census, which recorded a population of 39,488 in the civil parish.

Those of you with calculators to hand can work out the figures to find the attendance compared to population for each club (and some may have already done this but without doing so, my guess is that the spectrum would show that pro-rata, the bigger clubs actually don’t fare too much better than us.

For the catchment area apropos Aldershot, support could be far greater, we know. Some more comments from ShotsWeb on this:

Why are clubs like Sutton and Eastleigh getting more support than us?

We are getting left behind by the likes of Eastleigh & Sutton. Yesterday`s fixture Maidstone v Slough in National South produced a crowd of 1,815 (96 Slough fans). What does that tell us?

If you look at last seasons Saturday home attendances some people may be surprised to see just how low they were.

2066, 1729, 1664, 1560, 1573, 1589, 1487,1519, 1637, 1817,1857,1865, 1568, 1262, 1431, (Figures are with away support removed).

Aldershot’s fan base has never really been from the town itself. Not many fans actually live in Aldershot. It has always been from surrounding area. The potential is huge.

I`ve said on here previous, that the support came from Alton, Farnham, Guildford, Fleet, Farnborough, Godalming, Petersfield, Weybridge, etc. The catchment area is huge.

There are many reasons why attendances at ATFC are shrinking, the main one being cost why would neutrals who want to watch a game choose to pay the same for non league as for championship level. As has been said by others the fan base is not the youngest. Aldershot is not a nice town to visit.

Sad, but likely true. So could the club do more to attract fans? Yes, but that is negated somewhat by current circumstance and judging by the feelings read, will be hard to turn around.

“As far as I can see the board have offered very little by way of comment on the season ahead and their expectations. They barely acknowledged the fact we were relegated (but for the lucky reprieve)”

“Personally, I’m not going to keep investing my time and money attending games through some misguided sense of loyalty. The falling attendance figures suggest I’m not the only one who feels that way.”

Entertainment, value for money and facilities

It’s all about goals excitement and league position. Nothing else , not even a padded seat or a decent toilet, will bring people back in their masses.

See. I don’t subscribe so much to that. If a friend’s house was a pig-sty you probably wouldn’t visit. If they made wholesale improvements and it was attractive to visit you’d be more likely to.

Redevelopment

In the pipeline. Commercially speaking, we’re told of the proposed regeneration plans and a hotel possibly funding that and the lease situation is a good start. I’m both hopeful and excited but would like our ‘stadium’ to retain character (in particular the East Bank which is practically a listed building) and reflect our history,

If the rec is to be redeveloped it needs to be more than just a football ground. It needs to be open to the community at least six days a week, with a decent social club, gym and all weather football pitch in much the same way as Barnet.

All sounds good, doesn’t it, on paper at least for now.

Conclusion

Overall I think that the drop (and compared to last season it is a substantial one) is worrying and I think we are all sanguine enough to admit that had we been relegated and if we are to be this season, 1500 or so would be halved rather quickly and in the National League South we wouldn’t necesarily be a big fish in the pond.

It’s a sentimental view but where, as an example, Aston Villa fans might consider themselves to be one of the big six, as indeed they were in the eighties, my love for ATFC means I may be slightly deluded in thinking we should be fourth-tier fodder at least.

Aldershot is a traditional old-school football club perhaps still living a little in the past. I agree to some degree that this season is ‘make or break’ but don’t truly subscribe to the feeling that we are about to drop into the backwaters.

I sense a mixture of apathy, despair and slumped shoulders right now but there are causes for optimism, no less than with the team who are still young, learning and surely will improve.

The home emd support is still fantastic but we wonder how long it will stand the test if our match performances and results don’t improve in the near future.

The future may be dulled for now but it will always be red and blue… COME ON YOU SHOTS!

 

 

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