While Australia’s own A-League appears to go from strength to strength on the back of some enterprising football and unprecedented media interest in this country’s domestic version of the ‘world game’, a worrying trend of falling crowds has beset the game in its heartland.
According to BBC online, average attendances for 11 of the 20 English Premier League clubs are down this season.
In fact, Blackburn Rovers officials have been so alarmed with their own dwindling crowd numbers – down 20% over the past four years – that the club dropped its admission prices for the home game against Bolton last weekend to a flat rate of £15 (the high-end tickets usually cost more than twice that).
Chris Waddle, the former England international and current BBC commentator, claims falling crowds can be put down to one thing; the game is boring.
Waddle, himself an adventurous and entertaining player during the 1980s and 90s in England and France, reckons there are only two teams worth watching: Manchester Utd and Arsenal. Even reigning champions Chelsea play a ho-hum style of football, according to Waddle.
“Chelsea have a lot of big-name players who attract crowds but I would not say they are the greatest team in the world to watch,” Waddle said.
“They are efficient and professional but they do not get me on the edge of my seat. Liverpool have a similar philosophy – they aim to keep clean sheets and nick goals.
“It costs a fortune to go and watch Premiership football and fans want to be entertained. Most of them are not getting that.”
We’d also like to add that the fans must surely be frustrated by the fact that for the past decade, you could pick the eventual champion from a batch of three, maybe four, clubs well before kick-off in the first fixture of the season.
Not surprisingly, Premier League officials have downplayed the significance of the figures, with media man Dan Johnson producing his own stats to counter any argument that the game is on the nose with fans.
But when a club as big and as proud as Blackburn, who currently sit mid-table after just nine games, can only fill their home patch at Ewood Park to 67% of capacity, it is surely time to sit up and take notice.