UPDATE: The Cabinteely vs Wexford attendance was 346. At the time of writing we had an estimate of 150. The article will be updated shortly
When a TV show bursts onto the scene, along with a flurry of excitement and network driven advertising, the pilot tends to be the ratings winner for the season. The anticipation and hype around the show will usually die down and the numbers drop off. A show will hope to hold onto as many pilot viewers as possible to avoid the fickle network’s frequently swung axe.
The start of the footballing season is often quite similar. Fans tend to start a season with optimism, forgetting any pain and struggle of the previous campaign, hoping the close season will maintain or transform their fortunes. Fans who promised never to return at the end of the previous campaign often find themselves togged out in their match-watching attire as they sync into their match going ritual with unfounded hopefulness.
To that end, Gameweek 1 in the League of Ireland is the pilot episode ratings winner. The overall totals of the week remain the one to beat all season. Gameweek 2 can also be a ratings grabber with the first home games of Gameweek 1’s visiting teams scheduled. It’s Gameweek 3 that tends to be the one that shows the first indicators of which clubs will keep their viewing audience and who has lost their pilot momentum.
So who grew their crowds after their first outing in the 2017 League of Ireland season? Drogheda United saw 30 more fans turn the stiles in United Park this week as 1,050 attended to see their defeat to Cork City. It’s also worth noting that this game was shown on eirSport too. For the third week it looks like TV hasn’t really impacted fans heading to watch their team.
Cobh Ramblers also grew their crowd. 320 turned up to watch Wexford in their opening game but 417 made the trip to St Coleman’s Park to watch the Cork side earn a point against Shelbourne.
Athlone Town had a better outing second time around. The visit of neighbours Longford Town for their derby clash drew 380, 54 more than their previous game.
The seven other home teams suffered a drop in crowd numbers. Dundalk topped the Gameweek charts with their attendance, 3,286 against Limerick, but it was 1,460 less than their opening televised encounter against Shamrock Rovers.
The Hoops also saw a gate drop but they did open to a Dublin derby against rivals Bohemians which drew a huge crowd. Derry City visited this week and it would be expected the totals would be less. 1,969 less folks were in Tallaght but there was still 3,251 in attendance – their season average last season was 2,041 so they are still drawing good numbers.
Bohemians dropped 665 for the visit of Bray Wanderers with the third highest Gameweek crowd of 1,505. Sligo Rovers' gate halved in comparison to their opening week. 1,087 turned up at the Showgrounds compared to the 2,138 that watched the defeat to Dundalk a week earlier.
Finn Harps saw a drop to 1,845 to 1,022 for the clash against Galway United - a fall of 832. UCD also suffered a small drop. Our figure for Cabinteely is an estimate but they too look like having dropped down from their opening day figures.
Overall 12,407 people came to watch League of Ireland in Gameweek 3. That’s a drop of 2,765 on Gameweek 2 and a drop of 4,633 on Gameweek 1. Percentage wise that is a 27% drop in audience since Gameweek 1. The thing that hasn’t been factored into this drop is Ireland played Wales in a 6 Nations game on Friday night. We decided to carry out a poll on the Extratime.ie Twitter account. We ran it for an hour on Sunday afternoon. 299 people voted and 27% of those that voted said they choose to watch the rugby over going to a league game.
Did you choose to watch Ireland in rugby over going to an LOI game on Friday?— Extratime.ie (@ExtratimeNews) March 12, 2017
To compare to last year, Gameweek 1 and 2 had an attendance of 19,213 and 13,979 (total 33,192). This year Gameweek 1 and 2 had 17,040 and 15,172 (total 32,212). Almost identical. Gameweek 3 was a midweek set of games only featuring Premier Division teams, basically what Gameweek 4 will be this year. So it would be better to compare Gameweek 4 from last year to see if the drop is similar.
Gameweek 4 last year drew 15,517 which beats this year’s 12,407. It’s not a scientific comparison and perhaps after Monday the combined Gameweek 3 and 4 will be a better way to analyse the figures. The drop from last year and the fact that our twitter poll does show people who would go to a game didn’t indicates the rugby seems to have had a direct bearing on crowds.
The 2017 season to date
This week’s Gameweek numbers
Gameweek 2017 Compare