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Those Missing Fans, Gary

By Bristol Boy

The local press contains a quote from Gary Johnson whoíd like to know when the attendances will grow to the 16,000 mark for League Games.

The answer in literal terms is that we will top that mark for Yeovil & Forest, in fact Iím confident that, barring disasters, weíll sell-outÖwell, once again being literal, weíll sell 19,000 tickets for our 21,347 seater stadium and perhaps thatís a sad reflection of football in the year 2007.Either that or an attitude towards safety that is over cautious on occasions?

Weíll probably top 16,000 for the Swansea game if the travel restrictions donít bite to hard and, once again, barring disasters in form for either team in advance of that.

The deeper question, of course, is why the crowd isnít bigger on all occasions, when we havenít been outside the top four since Sept and is the more difficult one to answer and, whilst conceding I donít have all the answers, Iíll try.

Many fans walked away after the debacle at The Millenium. Wilsonís error in not selecting Lita, who was dropped in favour of half fit players and trying to out negative the most negative team in the Division with Craig Woodman on the left flank, saw many diehards amongst a tremendous and vociferous following leave, vowing not to return. It also failed to take advantage of a marvellous opportunity for the club to showcase its talents to a wider Bristol audience than AG allows.

I also know fans who were so disappointed at our instant return to Div Three after our last promotion that they havenít been to AG since.

That the wider Bristol football public is no longer interested in regularly watching Third Div Football has to be viewed as an immutable fact, proved over the last few season. Perhaps the only consolation for City die hards is that less than half their number are prepared to turn out to watch Fourth Division football in Horfield.

Speaking personally, Iím fed up with watching Football at Chesterfield, Brighton and, God forbid, Hartlepool if we fail to gain promotion to The Championship.

Look at it this way, if our first three fixtures next season are West Ham, Man City & WBA or Hartlepool, Lincoln & Chesterfield, which do you view as the more attractive?

The performance level this season hasnít, in my opinion, matched the level attained in our meteoric rise up the table following a record number of nine consecutive defeats, at the end of last season.

Injuries & Suspensions have also contributed to some inconsistency in the League and that was never better demonstrated than in the last month with wins at Brighton, Blackpool & Chesterfield, interspersed with two dire performances against the Rovers and a hardworking yet ineffective performance, that, save for the first ten minutes, lacked much quality against League Leaders Scunthorpe.

Price is a factor for some and Cityís apparent distaste for POD at any kind of competitive price, also discourages ďwalk upĒ supporters. Colin Sexstone confirmed that walk up support is negligible and the price of tickets is one reason why.

Any new construction or revamp of existing facilities should include an unallocated section of seating and a designated singing area. Iím also convinced that City fans should be housed in all four stands, whether or not reconstruction of the EE goes ahead and Iím 70% certain that it will if we are promoted.

It appears that GJ agrees about the positive overall effect of opening a portion of the EE to home fans.

The amount of quality televised football, to much on some occasions, at a knockdown price in comparison to the cheapest ST on offer, has become a problem even for clubs like Wigan, Bolton & Blackburn in the highest echelons of the game. Those clubs have reacted by slashing prices, preferring a nearer capacity crowd to greater earnings per head.

Proposed construction work at AG could limit the attendance to 15,000 and with a small allocation of around 800 for away supporters and, I would anticipate 10,000 ST Holders, City will have around only 4,200 tickets to dispose of on a weekly basis, no doubt at an increased price, given the higher standard of football and the higher standard/wages of some of the players required.

City can rely on capacity crowds for much of next season, on that basis and if the redevelopment doesnít go ahead, bigger clubs with bigger away followings depending on success levels will help raise the average attendance by 1,500-3,000, week in, week out.

The answer to the question is simple in that all that is required is success. As always saying itís simple, doing it, somewhat more awkward.

For GJ to achieve what he did at Yeovil (Moving up two divisions) would mean City being in The Premiership. Thatís the measure of the task he took on when he left Yeovil to move to a club with vastly higher levels of expectation.

Promotion would, I feel, give the club some breathing space in the expectation level stakes. Speaking personally, surviving in that division and finishing around the top ten would be an achievement for two or three seasons, before seriously thinking about pushing on to the promised land. There are those who suggest that the best chance of winning promotion is sometimes in your first season, when youíre an unknown quantity, on a winning streak and are still confident following promotion.

Before anyone laughs, they probably laughed at Watford when they appointed Adie Boothroyd and he suggested Premiership Football was even a possibility.

So thereís some answers Gary and a bit of a blueprint, all we need to do now is do it and youíre the man who has and will need to convince SL & the fans that itís possible.

From my standpoint and based on what Iíve seen to date, I have no doubt that given quality investment, reasonable luck (everyone needs that, irrespective of ability) with signings and injuries that you can do it.

The views expressed in this 'Soapbox' section are those of the author of each article and do not necessarily reflect those of the Bristol City Supporters Trust

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