Long-time readers will know that if there’s two things Row Z can get enthusiastic over its attendance stats and the Wessex League, so I’d like to thank the Wessex League for providing me with the attendance stats for the 2016/17 season which has allowed me to indulge these two interests.
My interest though is not based on any claim to geekdom, but is more about how important I feel attendance stats are for revealing certain things about the game and clubs, or at least that’s what I tell myself.
Since getting the figures I’ve been looking them over and creating all manner of graphs to try to see if I can pull out any interesting tidbits. There are, it can be said, a few and it’s been a bit of a headache to think about how best to present it all without it all becoming a mish-mash, or even a 5,000 word borefest so I’ve opted to release it in parts. Here goes part one….
The overall picture
Overall in 2016/17 the average attendance at Wessex League Premier Division games was 76 and for Division One clubs the figure was 48.
For Division One this represented no real change from 2015/16 where the average had been 49. The same cannot be said of the Premier Division which enjoyed an average attendance of 107 in 2015/16.
The reason for this reduction in the Premier of over a quarter can be put down to one main factor, which I’ll call The Salisbury Effect. In 2015/16 the Wessex League was joined by Salisbury, a new club which replaced the dissolved Salisbury City. A whole book could be written about Salisbury’s recent football travails, but the essence of the story for attendances is that traditionally Salisbury are a bigger club who entered the Wessex Premier as the starting point of their journey back to full health – rehab if you like.
It was just a few years ago that Salisbury City graced the Conference National and the club retained a relatively big following. Helped by a celebrity manager in ex-pro Steve Claridge Salisbury attracted crowds which were in Wessex League terms extremely large, averaging 707 over the 2015/16 season (for comparison the second highest average for 2015/16 was Andover Town with 130.)
The club also boasted a relatively large travelling support so the impact was felt not just on the overall Premier Division average, but across the averages for many clubs who back in 2015/16 cranked the programme printing press into overdrive and ordered extra sausages, tea bags and white rolls in advance of Salisbury’s visit.
Having won the League at the first time of asking however, Salisbury gained promotion to the Southern League for the 2016/17 season leaving turnstiles across the Wessex Premier that little bit quieter this season as things returned to an equilibrium.