(UPDATED: Bray Wanderers now 100% official figures, replacing nine estimates, with one further Wexford Youths estimate updated - all graphics and text should reflect the changes)
Pokemon Go! became a hit over the summer as people dashed around trying to snap up virtual sprites in real locations. “Gotta catch ‘em all” was the show’s catchphrase and as much as I scoffed at the notion, I have been playing the League of Ireland equivalent all year long. With 251 attendances to catch, I’ve hassled, harried and begged via emails, phone calls, and on various social media messaging channels to snare attendance figures from 20 different clubs.
Before any analysis of these figures can be made, it needs to be made clear that a percentage of the gathered numbers are estimates. These estimates are a combination of best guesses from Extratime.ie reporters / officials / other journalists and must be taken with a healthy margin of error. In order to pen these articles, I have contacted all the clubs, via numerous points of contact, and remain hopeful that many of the estimates will be replaced by official figures. If any are received, this article will be updated.
Ten clubs have provided 100% of official figures (Bray Wanderers, Bohemians, Cork City, Dundalk, Galway United, Limerick, Longford Town, Sligo Rovers, Shelbourne, Waterford United) with another five clubs missing out on two or less (Shamrock Rovers, St. Patrick's Athletic, Wexford Youths, Finn Harps, Drogheda United). On the other end of the scale 100% of Derry City’s attendance figures are estimates with over 60% of UCD and Cabinteely’s crowd numbers estimated. In total out of 250 games (one game discounted for a walkover), 42 have been estimated.
Gameweek by Gameweek
For the purpose of this article I have refactored the Gameweeks compared to previous articles to include re-fixed games. In total we have played 28 Gameweeks (250 games). The date ranges have been included below as a guide.
Working off average attendances due to the changes in the number of games per Gameweek, the opening Gameweek remains top of the charts with an average gate of 1,912. That total has never really been threatened.
Before the summer break, the average attendance was 1,208. With the Euro 2016 disruption, and European games causing re-fixed midweek games, that average post summer break has dropped to 907. Whereas before the break, the average dropped below 1,000 on three occasions out of 16, after the break, it has only surpassed it four times in 12 attempts.
With the caveat of estimated attendances featuring, our total crowd figures for the season to date is 273,911. With 59 games remaining, if we take our current post break average and current season average, the total crowd count would reach between 326,043 and 336,840.
Obviously this is a speculative figure but a surge in crowd figures will be needed regardless if the 2016 season is to surpass 2015’s FAI-provided season total of almost 375,000 (taken from FAI Press Release 1st December 2015 – SSE Airtricity League attendances increase in 2015). According to that release, crowds were up 6.9% on 2014 which means approximately 349,125 attended in 2014. On current projections, 2016 could drop below 2014 figures.
Highlights and Lowlights – The Facts and Figures
So with 250 games played, 273,911 people have attended games (208 official counts and 42 estimates) with an average match attendance of 1,096.
In terms of overall crowds, Cork City top the polls with 13.6% of the overall gate. Shamrock Rovers (9.7%), Sligo Rovers (8.8%) and Dundalk (8.7%) complete the top four. Athlone Town sit at the foot of the table with 0.6%. UCD come next with 1.3%.
As teams have played varying numbers of games, the average count is a better measure and Cork City also come out on top with a gate of 2,843. However the top four differs with Dundalk (2,368), Shamrock Rovers (2,041) and Sligo Rovers (1,838) in 2nd to 4th place. Limerick, who play in the First Division, rank higher (1,246) than some Premier Division teams – Galway United (1,246), Bray Wanderers (914), Wexford Youths (587) and Longford Town (499).
Breaking it down to Premier and First Division, 228,545 attended the top tier over 154 games with an average attendance of 1,484. In the lower division, 45,475 went to 96 games averaging 474 per game.
Club by Club
Before going into each club’s figures, I’d like to thank everyone who has put up with my constant requests for club attendances. As with all figures, I will highlight all estimates.
Athlone Town have had their off-field problems this season which has seen fan protests as well as plenty of squad changes. Their opening game of the season at home to Limerick remains their highest attendance (292). Since then the clubs crowds have hovered in the mid to lower 100’s and our estimate of 100 for their Cabinteely game in August ranks as their lowest. Their season average is 159. (should we get official figures for our estimates we will update this).
The Dublin derby between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers was unsurprisingly the Gypsies largest gate of the league season to date (3,627). Only once was Dalymount Park attended by under 1,000. On the 24th June, Galway United visited. This was two days after Ireland defeated Italy in the Euros but was a rest day for the competition. Considering the volume of travelling Irish support, it is little surprise to see this period produce Bohs lowest crowd (963). Bohemians season averages currently stands at 1,592.
Since this article was written, Bray Wanderers have provided a full set of official figures which we are very grateful for. The top game for Bray was the opener against Dundalk with 1,704 attending. The crowds thinned out for the next match but with a solid run of form later in the season, the crowds have turned up with 1,461 and 1,253 there to watch Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk. Their season average is 914 .
Cabinteely, along with Bray, Derry and UCD, are not the easiest to get official figures from. Like Bray we will move swiftly on. Cabo’s season average currently stands at 332 but eight games from 12 have been estimated.
Cobh Ramblers crowd rarely moved too far up or down all season but has gained some momentum in recent weeks with three attendances in a row exceeding 400. They ranged from a low of 251 to a high of 497 on the opening day. A mainly consistent flow of people hitting St Coleman’s Park. Cobh’s season averages currently stands at 361.
Cork City blaze a trail when it comes to crowd numbers. Cork City’s opening day tally of 4,028 against Bohemians is just 47 less than neighbours Cobh Ramblers season total. The Rebel Army have consistently surpassed 2,500 with the visit of Dundalk recording 5,453. The only blip on their report card was against Bray Wanderers in August where they had a season low of 1,715. The Leesiders crowd total of 36,962 makes up 14% of the overall league attendances. Cork City’s season averages currently stands at 2,843.
We have no official figures for Derry City from 13 home games. We estimate an average crowd of 1,546 but with 13 guessed crowd figures, the Candystripes introduce the biggest margin of error in our numbers. Should Derry provide any official totals, we will update this article.
Drogheda United have upped and downed all season but never really by much. From a high of 736 to a low of 250, they have a season average of 538. The likes of Limerick and Shelbourne visiting sees the crowd numbers swell slightly.
Dundalk have played the least home games of any team in both leagues due to their European exploits. Their March game against Cork City remains their best attendance (3,528) but it is important to point out they have played one home game since the start of July and that was on a Tuesday night. Despite the midweek scheduling, they drew 2,053 when they played Finn Harps on the 12th Sept. They currently average 2,368.
Finn Harps opening day crowd of 4,195 for their derby game against Derry City was the highest in the league for quite a while. Their crowds have dropped off since, but they still maintain an average of 1,344.
Galway had enjoyed crowds mostly over 1,000 before the break but with the exception of a bumper crowd of 2,578 when Dundalk came to town in August, their attendances have lowered. A Tuesday visit of Shamrock Rovers registered a season low of 631. It shows how damaging a midweek game can be to a gate. The Tribesman current average 1,246 this season.
Limerick buck the trend when it comes to the First Division. They ran riot on the field winning the league with plenty to spare. In the stands, Markets Field has been boosting the lower division averages. Consistently 1,000 plus crowds have gone to see the SuperBlues, only UCD’s visit registering lower (847). Their season average is 1,246 at present.
Much like Drogheda United, Longford have a similar crowd base. The highlight was 1,006 for the visit of Sligo Rovers with September’s visit of Bray hitting a low of 273. Their season average is currently 499.
Shamrock Rovers Dublin derbies have boosted their home gates with 3,453 versus Pats and 3,402 against Bohemians. Dundalk, however, drew their largest crowd with 3,513. Their season low came in August when Wexford Youths visited (948) and was also the only time they dropped below 1,000. The Hoops season average stands at 2,041.
Shelbourne match Drogheda United and Longford Town with no real drastic highs or lows. Just a consistent crowd, boosted or reduced based on travelling fans. They, like the two mentioned seem to have a steady core. They too have a season average in the 500’s – 532.
Sligo opened up their campaign against Shamrock Rovers in front of 3,068. Since then the crowds have dropped but steadied around 1,500/1,700. They average 1,838 for the season with the Hoops generating their two largest gates. The Battles of the Rovers clearly a fan favourite.
St. Patrick's Athletic
St. Patrick’s Athletic league campaign is one Liam Buckley is looking forward to moving on from with cup glory the target for the rest of the season. Crowds in Inchicore have lingered around the 1,000 mark with the occasional spike when Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers or Bohemians have come to play. Their season average is 1,282.
UCD are in the top four when it comes to no official figures. Nine estimates here so I won’t linger. Of the official figures we got, 175 for the visit of Cabinteely ranked lowest with Limerick’s August visit hitting a high of 457. They have an average of 281 (bigger margin of error to be expected here due to estimates).
The Waterford United crowd has been disappointing all season. As the pattern with many teams, they opened with their largest crowd (720) and gradually lowered. The visit of Athlone Town was a season low with 167 in attendance. They have a season average of 316.
Premier Division new boys Wexford Youths have had a tough first season in the top flight so far. Their crowd has jumped from a high of 968 to a low of 373 and has inconsistently bounced all over the place. They have a season average of 587 but they will be disappointed not to have broken the 1,000 mark this season but there is still time.
If you have made it this far, congratulations. If you have any comments or issues with facts and figures, you can reach me on @garethpenrose. I would ask you to forgive any errors made, as there was a mountain of constantly influx figures. I'd like to thank again all the clubs and volunteers that continue to provide figures. If you do use these figures found here further afield, I'd appreciate if you would also give Extratime.ie credit as it has taken alot of effort to source and compile this info.