The Irish Times carried a very interesting piece by Emmet Malone yesterday which examined recent attendances at Republic of Ireland home internationals. The game against Turkey last Sunday had an official attendance of 25,191 however, it has been suggested a figure of 15,000 is closer to the truth, given that roughly 3,000 people left after the earlier FAI Junior Cup final.
Malone takes us down memory lane as he reminisces about Lansdowne Road and writes: "Before the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road just about every game attracted close to a full house and almost everyone paid for their tickets because there was a genuine fear that if you let your block booking go for the Malta game to someone else then when Germany, France or Italy came to town you might genuinely struggle to get in”.
The economic crisis, increased stadium capacity and poor management of the FAI’s Vantage Club scheme are all mentioned as possible reasons for the decline in international attendances. The quality of the national team is surely another factor, with the side languishing in 66th place in the world rankings, two places above our lowest position ever, achieved in March of this year.
So how accurate is this assessment? Well, it's fairly spot on.
I’ve gathered attendance data on Irish internationals played in Ireland (we ignore trips to London and the USA) since the turn of the millennium and consider five venues ; Lansdowne Road (41), Croke Park (13), Thomand Park (2), the RDS (2) and the Aviva Stadium (25).
There are various ways to present data like this (I can make available upon request) for the 83 ‘home’ games Ireland have played since meeting the Czech Republic on 23rd of February 2000. The analysis covers 35 qualifiers for both the World Cup and European Championships, two World Cup playoffs (Iran & France), one European Championship playoff (Estonia), 3 Nations Cup matches and 42 friendlies. The tables below present a subsection of data from 2000-2014.
These figures don't make for great reading for the Aviva.
Over the past fourteen years, on only six occasions has the official attendance fallen below 40% of stadium capacity (third table below). The Aviva was the venue for all six of these matches.
holidays when I was a child. It's what we like to remember. While Lansdowne consistently outperformed the Aviva, it wasn’t always full. Between 2000 and 2009 attendance at the venue dropped below 70% of capacity on six occasions. A friendly against Finland on the 15th of November 2000 saw the stadium just half full!