Previously I wrote a piece which focused on the economic conditions, both unemployment and income (in the form of GDP per capita) and their roles in influencing Irish international attendances (here). While limited evidence was found in both variables playing an influence, particularly in the case of GDP per capita, what about other factors such as, how Ireland are performing, the level of the opposition, and the unpredictability of the outcome? Figures 1, 2, and 3 examine these variables.
In order to assess how well Ireland or the opposition are playing at the particular moment in time, the FIFA World Rankings are used. In theory, the lower the ranking the better the team is, thus the higher the expected attendance.
Finally, match uncertainty plays a role in attracting greater crowds to games as was discussed by Garcia and Rodriguez (2015). While their study uses a quadratic form of the difference between home and away teams in the league as one measure of match uncertainty, I use the squared difference in FIFA rankings between Ireland and their opponent. Lower values indicate the teams are more closely matched while higher values indicate a gulf in class between the two. Figure 3 indicates the correlation.
If we were to rank the factors influencing Irish International attendance over the period according to their R2 results, unemployment levels, and opposition ranking would be the most important, followed by Irish rankings, with match uncertainty and GDP per capita levels being the least.
However, in truth no one particular variable can explain fully the factors which influence Irish football attendances. There are combinations of all the above, plus others, such as ticket prices, competitive games vs friendlies, weather factors. More research is needed but the starting point for this is to have accurate and reliable attendance figures.
Seán O'Connor is a Research Assistant at the Department of Economics, University College Cork.