Yep I’m talking crowds again! Mine host of this column, Mr Kendrick recently poll on Twitter regarding how people watched or listened to the Swansea game. Twenty four hours later and we find that 63% of people were at the DW but another 23% chose to watch the game view the Sky red button, and 10% via the Latics’ own iFollow platform.
If we are to assume that Kendo’s followers are representative of Wigan Athletic followers as a whole, then this is indeed a worrying trend. It suggests that 1 out of every 4 fans, or even 1 out of every 3 including iFollow subscribers, chooses to watch midweek games online rather than in the flesh.
We all know that we get it in the neck more so than any other club about our support and there’s no point combing over the many contributing factors again but this red button malarkey is once again hitting clubs in the pockets. Of course, the above poll excludes people who didn’t watch the match at all, due to working shifts or whatever and of course, we are assuming that everyone who did watch the game online has done so via legitimate sources.
You have undoubtedly got people who live too remotely to attend a midweek game and for them, streaming the game is a godsend, but putting a figure on the ones who do live locally and can feed football to a family of four for a tenner is critical to understanding why our crowds are lower this time around in the Championship.
Do the maths and you can’t really blame people to a certain extent for parting with a tenner rather than spending £50 or £60 in this scenario. The red button generates lots of revenue but that revenue does not flow through to the home club, and even if it did, the club would still end up out of pocket.
The club could drop prices, matching or even going lower than the magic button, but are there even any guarantees there? Probably not given the marginally better attendance at home against Bristol City. Then there’s the Saturday pricing, not many home fans will be splashing out at £30 a head to watch us take on West Brom I’d imagine.
But most sensible fans know why we do so in these games, because the club can guarantee 5,000 tickets sold by away fans at that price. Essentially, dropping the price guarantees nothing but all points to lower revenue after all. What a pickle!
Coverage of football has come a long way since that three hour end of season VHS video with grainy goal footage I used to pick up from Micron on Gidlow Lane and take home to devour over and over again in the Eighties. Is it for the better? Well, I’ll leave that for you to decide. Yet, the old taunt of “our ground’s too big for us” is going to be exacerbated even further as other forms of media become more prevalent in sports coverage.
I uncovered a marvellous stat a while ago, which is also incredibly frightening, and it is that of the 200 million (across the world) who watch English football each week, only 0.16% (around 350,000) actually attend in person. So if you’re wondering why the TV companies and the FA / Football League don’t care about match going fans, well why should they? Who gears a business plan up to satisfy such a tiny minority?
Of course, we can provide a short term remedy to this on Saturday as close to 4,000 Latics fans head to Deepdale. Now I know that some clubs will take more there, and indeed here. Yet I doubt many clubs will take nearly 50% of their home support to an away game this year, so full credit to every one of us who is going. Hopefully we can make a right racket and get a performance to match.
This article first featured in 5th October 2018’s Wigan Evening Post 12th Man Column