Yeovil Town Chairman John Fry has again spoken to this week's Western Gazette about the current level of crowds at Huish Park. The Glovers chief has asked fans to not react to singular results or performances, and to stick with the club during the whole season:
"The message we send out to fans who do back us is back us consistently and do not judge us on one performance and result, especially when we have only got half the usual first team out there. You have to have the commitment to follow us throughout the season because we do need crowds of around 6,000. The manager and the team deserve it irrespective of what a person classifies as good performances or bad performances. It is not just for big matches either - we have to get in the crowds for all matches."
Mr Fry has also added that he believed that clubs around the country were suffering massive drops in crowds, and considered that there was an overall problem with football:
"It is a hazard that every club has got to live with, though. And as I have been informed, most clubs are at least 20 per cent down on crowds. Clubs need to wake up to that fact and at the end of the season something might have to give in football."
We're not sure who Mr Fry has been getting his information from, but it does not stand up to the facts unfortunately. Taking League One clubs on their own, only two clubs have seen gates drop by more than 20 percent, and those are Southend United and Luton Town, who have suffered the predictable loss in revenue that most clubs experience when they drop out of the Championship division.
Overall, League One has seen a 5.6 percent rise in crowds, caused in part by Leeds United, but still across the division eight clubs have seen a rise in gates, whilst eight more have seen a single figure fall that could be clawed back by the time the Christmas, Easter and promotion/relegation run-in gates are factored in. Cheltenham Town are currently even against last season's figures.
Across the whole Football League, just 5 out of 72 have experienced drops of 20 percent or more, whilst if that is extended to include the Premiership and Conference, the figures are merely 9 out of 126 clubs. So certainly not a case of "most" clubs.
Nor is it a regional problem - Bristol Rovers have experienced a massive rise of 50.2% on their attendances this season, whilst Bristol City have seen their gates go up by 20.7%, showing their gates are thriving at present. The Glovers have recorded a drop of 8.4% so far this season - on the back of an 11.5% drop on the previous season. This means that the Glovers have lost 19% of their support over the last two years - one in five supporters have decided to spend their Saturdays elsewhere.
This is despite having reached the League One Play-Off Finals last season. With Mr Fry having implied that the club were basing their hopes on crowds of 6,000 this season, they are currently a long way adrift of expectations. Mr Fry has said that the club are considering changing pricing structures, but are unsure as to whether this will solve the problem or not:
"If you have a half-empty stadium what you have got to create is a situation where you are not rigid to prices. What we have to be careful of, though, is that we do not throw the baby out with the bath water and end up with less money if we try different schemes. We are dealing with a company whose expertise is crowd attendance at Somerset County Cricket Club and Bristol City Football Club. Somebody from that company came down last Thursday and he helped us. The whole idea is to get a bigger audience and get people who are hesitating into the stadium."
Tomorrow's match against Swansea City will not help those who are 'hesitating', given that prices for the match have been pegged at the 'Premium' level. On the plus side though, the game is now no longer all-ticket, assuming that any of Saturday's stragglers are aware of that u-turn in policy.
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