Mickey Blue Eyes
No, not the American Bill Gates, Microsoft or computer software. This is about English Premier League football attendances.
Last Saturday the official gate at Newcastle was 50,671, their highest of the season. I must say this figure surprised me, for there were banks of empty seats everywhere - as there is at almost every other televised game this season. In our recent game at Chelsea their corporate level was virtually deserted. As expected, economic reality is biting hard.
According to The Guardian issue of Saturday, 5th November, nine of twenty clubs have suffered a fall in gates. By the time you read this opinion the figures may have changed slightly, but likely only slightly. Really, the statistics speak for themselves. In order of descending percentage loss they are:
Aston Villa, -12.82%. (8th)*
Wolves, -10.53%. (13th)
Blackburn, -8.00%. (19th)
Sunderland, -5.71%. (15th)
Newcastle, -3.37%. (3rd)
Everton, -3.26%. (17th)
West Bromwich Albion, -0.74%. (14th)
Fulham, -0.40%. (16th)
Arsenal, -0.16%. (7th)
*League positions in brackets following games on Sunday, 7th November.
Seven of these clubs are from three areas hardest hit by the latest capitalist depression: the north east, the north west, and the midlands. Only Fulham and Arsenal are from London. Clearly league position isn't the decisive factor or Everton would head the list with Blackburn, and rock-bottom Wigan would have a substantial loss, not an increase. And Newcastle's elevated league placing would mean they had an increase, not a loss. Thus the paradox.
In fact, given our financial circumstances and lousy start to the season, Everton's attendance figures demonstrate the remarkable staying power and loyalty of Evertonians. But this will not go on forever. In the end people are just people; when money problems strike the first things to go are expensive luxury items. And football has become an expensive luxury item in a deluded spiv economy on yet another downturn. The affects on attendances are as predictable as they always have been. There's nothing new under the sun, not even in the chauvinist foolishness and petty hatreds that surround professional sport.
These comparative figures are worth remembering next time you hear somebody on an absurd ale house rant. Reality has a way of torpedoing ignorance.