It is amazing how three of the football codes in Australia are so obsessed about revealing their crowd figures after weekend games by way of public statements rather than simply alongside a match report. Why is this?
Is it a ploy by each code in their battle to claim to be the number one football code, or is it a case of putting these statistics out there in order to attract sponsors from the corporate world?
Following Round one of this years Hyundai A-League the FFA were quick to advise that they had set a new aggregate record for a single round in the history of the competition as 100,998 fans attended the five games. This was a fantastic achievement, but one has to ask how many of these tickets were paid for? For example the following week for their first home game Perth Glory gave away 5,000 tickets; according to Football West 84% (4200) of these tickets were used to boost the final crowd to 13,856 at that game.
The question that this example raises with free tickets making up nearly one third of the total crowd, and the corporate free tickets are not included, should these figures be taken at face value? The truth is every code gives away free tickets, to boost their crowds, but maybe the paying public deserve to know just how many are being given away each week.
Many season ticket holders in each of these codes are beginning to question why they hand over their money at the start of the season and then watch more and more people turning up without having to buy a ticket. Free tickets may well give one code boasting rights over another but it could ultimately be a decision that costs them more than they anticipated. It is crucial that they look after their members, and maybe they need to look at rewarding them more.
Turning our attention back to the A-League, as the other codes are in their off season it is interesting to look at the crowds since round one. In week two the cumulative gate was 75,757 across the A-league, a drop of 25% and 25,241 individuals. That is a huge drop in just one week.
It is hard to compare with the last round as the Central Coast Mariners fixture v Wellington Phoenix has been held back until 19 December. So despite a drop from their opening crowd to their second of 8,000 we have averaged out the mariners gate for the season, which comes to 11,515. Despite their last two crowds being under 10,000 we will use this figure to give a like on like result for a cumulative crowd for round six which was completed at the weekend. Even with this figure the numbers have dropped even further. Using that average the total number of fans reported attending Hyundai A League games would be 52,576 (it was 41,061 for the four games played. This is a 31% drop on round 2 and 48% drop since round one.
This statistics must be very worrying for club owners and the FFA. Yes, the fixtures are different and teams have different appeal and rivalries, but to lose close on 50% of your fans in just six weeks is nothing short of alarming. Maybe this is close to how many free tickets were given away? We will never know, but it would help explain such a dramatic drop in such a short space of time.
To add to that alarm last weekend of the four games played just one produced a crowd of over ten thousand, and credit to the fans of Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory who achieved that in appalling weather conditions. They had a crowd of 15,854. The other three teams, Perth Glory, Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Heart all failed to pull 9,000 through the gates.
Hopefully this trend changes or club owners are going to be wondering why they bought into the game.