If I’d been given a pound to go with every snide remark I’ve read or heard about attendances at Latics then I’d probably have enough money to buy up all the spare tickets at the DW ensuring a home sell out for the rest of the season. I’m also guessing that I’d be too minted to care about such insignificant matters. Of course all those jibes are lazy, they ignore facts like the geographic and demographic position of the town and club and push the myth that the Premier League is such a prime product that it’s mere existence demands full houses week in. week out and the consensus view that, because those full houses evade Latics, Wigan must be a ‘rugby town’.
The biggest fact that they ignore is that by one, wholly reasonable, measure Latics’ crowds aren’t that bad. In fact they’re pretty damn healthy.
I wish that I could tell. you that I’ve invented some magic co-efficient, a Duckworth-Lewis Method of measuring football crowds and income so that we can finally decide who the biggest and best clubs are and forget about all that awkward kicking balls about stuff. My method relies on nothing more than the simple notion that a football club has a natural constituency in the people from the town it represents and measuring how successful it is at pulling those people through the door is a pretty good way of judging an average attendance.
For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve relied totally on Wikipedia and this attendances table for last season. I’ve taken some liberties by giving all of Manchester to City and Salford to United. Liverpool, Everton shared the population of their city equally, as did Birmingham and Villa. The London clubs were all assigned the boroughs in which they are based. Far from perfect and I’m happy to take any suggestions, but I’ll probably ignore them, mostly because I’ve written this now and as they always say in football, never go back.
So the scores on the doors? They’re in the table below and Latics fare quite well (I suppose you’d guessed that, or why else would we be here?). No doubt the Premier League will be quick sharp to pop round offering us a European place for next season, once this gets in the public domain.
Jokes aside, is there anything to be learnt from all this? I don’t know, maybe it’s just a timely reminder that like any other “product” football has a limited market. Unless you’re one of the true global monsters of the game you’re relying on the local populous to turn up and when you need at least a quarter of the town to turn up to fill your home stands then you’ve got a job on.
But, equally, you can flip that on its head because it’s actually quite an achievement that Latics pull in the equivalent of one in five of their townspeople every other week. It would be nice to see some ‘outsiders’ take this ‘glass half full’ view every once in a while and statements from both the manager and chairman in recent weeks indicate that they are starting to shove it in people’s faces.
Overall though this is just a simple “don’t believe everything you read” post. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that our crowds are great, there’s scope for improvement and there’ve been plenty of marketing mistakes been made along the way (dare I suggest that if the JJB had started life as a 18,000 seater stadium then we’d now be talking about how we’re missing out on revenue because we’re turning people away?), but neither am I going to spend too much time worrying about “only” having 12,000 home fans on.
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