As the years go on, a growing number of English clubs are experiencing the Premier League. For many, this experience is short lived. Watching highlights from the Championship on Sky Sports this morning, I saw goals go in at Barnsley, Birmingham, Fulham, Blackburn and Leeds. As a Tottenham fan my mind naturally cast back to matches at the recognisable grounds. David Ginola’s goal in 1999 at Oakwell in the FA Cup is a pretty salient memory. Robbie Keane’s second of the game in 2006 at St. Andrews is another. Equally, I remember losing at Craven Cottage, Ewood Park and Elland Road. What struck me most was the attendance last night, or more precisely, lack of it, at these grounds. Albeit a Tuesday night, the array of empty seat at the venues (in particular Portman Road) were blatantly obvious. I don’t have many memories of this for these clubs in the Premier League.
To consider this idea quickly and crudely (as all other factors are being held equal), the graph below shows the average home attendance figures for a series of clubs that spent at least two consecutive seasons in the Premier League (blue bars) and were subsequently relegated to Division 1/The Championship for up to three seasons* (grey bars). Most of the data is taken from European-Football-Statistics website. I focused on current Championship clubs and left out some notable yo-yo teams such as Norwich, Newcastle and QPR.
As you would expect the graph illustrates the considerable attendance drop for many clubs when they leave the top flight. Ipswich were the only ones to maintain and increase their attendance after relegation from the Premier League. This may be due to the fact that, despite their relegation, they still qualified for the UEFA Cup through the Fair Play mechanism for the following season.
For some clubs there seems to be a natural decay too. When a return to the Premier League is not secured immediately, attendance will suffer further; as was the case with Birmingham, Reading, Leeds, Wolves and Wigan.
*Wigan and Wolves were relegated to League One in year two for Wolves and year three for Wigan