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The mid-season break in the League of Ireland has come and gone and it is time to review how attendance figures for the SSE Airtrcity League 2017 season are shaping up.
163 games were played before the break and our analysis below is based on 139 official figures and 24 estimates. An official figure is one that has been provided by the club. We have requested official figures for the 24 we are missing and should we acquire them in the future, we will update this article.
Our estimates are drawn from the best guesses from ExtraTime.ie reporters / officials / other journalists and must be taken with a healthy margin of error. The breakdown of estimates per club is as follows: Derry City (9), UCD (4), Athlone Town (3), Cabinteely (3), St Patrick’s Athletic (3), Bray Wanderers (1) and Cobh Ramblers (1). 13 clubs have a full set of official figures.
To the various club officials that have taken time to hunt down attendance figures and who have put up with incessant requests – thank you. To the clubs who still have estimated attendances, apologies in advance for the continued reminders.
If you find any errors, inaccuracies or you just want to provide feedback and require clarification on anything, you can comment below the article.
Gameweek by Gameweek
There were 17 Gameweeks up to the mid-season break. Instead of including re-fixed games in the original Gameweek, I have included it in the preceding one to the actual date the game was played.
It has become quiet standard in the past few years that the opening Gameweek is the best attended. 2017 is no different. With a total attendance of 17,040 and an average gate of 1,704, Gameweek 1 ranks first in the charts.
It was the Premier Division’s best Gameweek with an average of 2,942. Going on averages, it was the 6th best week for the First Division and the main reason for this is that Waterford were not playing at home. Any Gameweek the Blues featured at home alters the First Division average significantly.
By Gameweek 17 last season, the Gameweek average had dropped below 1,000 on five occasions. There is more consistency week to week this season with the lowest Gameweek average coming in at 1,203. The basis of this can be found in the fact 13 of the 20 clubs report better average gates than 2016 so far this season.
Last season, the Euro 2016 disruption, and European games causing re-fixed midweek games, had a big impact on attendances. We will see over the coming weeks if the League of Ireland clubs European adventures will have an impact on the domestic crowds.
Highlights and Lowlights – The Facts and Figures
The total League of Ireland audience for the first part of the 2017 season was 231,222 across 163 games (139 official attendance figures and 24 estimates) with an average match crowd of 1,419. The average at the end of the 2016 season was 1,114.
In terms of overall crowds, Cork City are the trailblazers with 36,255 punters entering Turner’s Cross so far this season. That represents 15.68% of the overall League of Ireland gate across both divisions. Shamrock Rovers have seen 28,193 enter Tallaght Stadium to date or 12.88% of the league tally. Last year’s Champions Dundalk come in third with 12.19%. So between Cork City, Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk, their home crowds represent almost 41% of the total league crowd in 2017.
In the First Division, Waterford FC have seen a dramatic resurgence in their home gate compared to last year. In 2016, the Blues finished with an average attendance of 277 or 1.3% of the league crowd. So far this year, they have an average of 1,525 or 4.62%. They have a better average crowd than six Premier Division sides and are well ahead of all First Division teams.
The First Division, like last year, continues to struggle to draw the crowds. Whilst Waterford are holding their own, the other seven clubs make up 8.13% of the overall league attendance, or 18,808 people. To compare, the sum of the home gates of Shelbourne, Cabinteely, Cobh Ramblers, Longford Town, Wexford, Athlone Town and UCD is only 1,273 greater than Bohemians home gate so far this season. At the same time, their averages for this season are in and around the same as last season if slightly down.
As teams have played a different number of home games, the average per game is a better measure to compare by and Cork City, just like they are in the league, are surging ahead. They have an average home gate so far this season of 4,532. Their 2016 figure was 2,533. Dundalk last season topped the charts, but whilst now in 2nd with 3,133, they are up on their 2016 final average of 2,738.
Shamrock Rovers have an average of 2,978 which is well ahead of their 2016 average of 2,041. In fact, apart from Sligo Rovers (1,614 in 2017, 1,752 in 2016) every Premier Division club currently has a better average than last year. (Derry City is excluded as every attendance figure last year and this year has been estimated)
It is important to point out this is a comparison between midseason versus end of season averages. As the league progresses there is a trend that attendances can drop due to less to play for but we will see if the Premier Division clubs can keep above their 2016 averages come the end of the season.
The top attended game last season was the clash of Cork City and Dundalk before the midseason break which saw 5,453 fans flock to Turner’s Cross. So far in 2017, the game that drew the biggest crowd is once again the meeting of Cork City and Dundalk in Turner’s Cross. This time it was closer to the start of the season and Turner’s Cross was jammed with 6,746 in attendance as the Rebel Army beat the Champions by two goals to one.
Out of the top ten attended fixtures this year, six of them were in Turner’s Cross, with the top three all featuring the Rebel Army at home (6,746 v Dundalk, 5,361 v Bray Wanderers, 5,275 v Derry City). Shamrock Rovers feature twice (4th and 7th) with Dundalk also appearing twice in the top ten (6th and 10th).
The lowest attended game is currently UCD’s home game against Longford Town in March which drew 135. There is a big asterisk here as there are a number of UCD, Cabinteely and Athlone Town home games we had to estimate so this may be changed such the clubs provide official tallies for the estimated games. In the Premier Division, Bray Wanderers one nil win over Galway United in April was the lowest attended game so far in that division with 477.
Total number of games played: 163
Total League of Ireland 2017 Attendance: 231,222
Average gate for the 2017 season: 1,419
Average gate for Premier Division: 1,959
Average gate for the First Division: 491
Largest Attendance: 6,746 – Cork City 2-1 Dundalk
Lowest Attendance: 135 – UCD v Longford Town
CLUB ATTENDANCE TOTALS & 2017 V 2016 AVERAGES
2016 V 2017 CLUB BY CLUB PERCENTAGE OF OVERALL ATTENDANCE
TOP 10 ATTENDED FIXTURES 2017
With the caveat of estimated attendances featuring, our total attendance figure up to the mid-season break is 231,222.
With 147 games remaining, if we take our current season average figure, the forecast for a 2017 total crowd count would reach 439,890. There are a lot of factors between now and then that could impact the total.
If the league titles and European places are secured early it could result in attendance drop-offs as well as disruption to the domestic schedule due to European participation, but as it stands, the forecasted figure is well ahead of last year’s 344,245.
If you have any comments or issues with facts and figures you can reach me by commenting below or via twitter on @garethpenrose. I’d like to thank all the clubs and volunteers that continue to provide figures to me.
If you do use the figures and conclusions found here further afield, I'd appreciate if you would give Extratime.ie credit as it has taken a lot of effort to source and compile this info.