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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » Bolton Wanderers tackle dip in crowd numbers but can they win?

Bolton Wanderers tackle dip in crowd numbers but can they win?

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Convincing a discerning fan they are better to sample live football in the flesh rather than from behind a laptop is becoming an issue of utmost importance for clubs like Wanderers.

Though the season ticket holder – that hardiest of breed – will take their seat against Nottingham Forest and Hull City regardless of weather or form, it has been the walk-up supporter who has proved more elusive a catch for Bolton, and many other clubs outside the Premier League bubble.

Wanderers chairman Ken Anderson noted yesterday that the “jury is out” on the effect live midweek streaming is having on football economics. But he has also voiced his concern at a slight fall in attendances at home this season and will surely know what verdict is in store.

Debate has raged strongly in recent weeks over the pricing policy at the University of Bolton Stadium and defended fiercely by those who decide it. At the heart of the argument is two factors: Wanderers’ rather finely-balanced finances rely heavily on people coming through the turnstiles but an increasing number are seemingly deciding to spend their money elsewhere.

The Sky Sports-broadcasted game against Blackburn Rovers – which fell under the club’s highest category A bracket – attracted a crowd of 15,461, down slightly on last season’s average of 15,887.

As season ticket sales in the summer were comparable with where they were 12 months earlier, the average gate of 14,320 over the first six home games suggests it has been the more transitory fan who has opted to stay at home.

It is too soon to lump the blame solely on the agreement to allow midweek games to be streamed by clubs to domestic fans for a payment of £10, even if it is tempting.

The shortfall through the gates may well be counterbalanced by increased revenue from the EFL but as further pressure is put on English clubs to abandon the traditional TV black-out on Saturdays between 2.45-5.15pm, clubs are soon going to have a big decision to make.

Wanderers have, to their credit, responded in a proactive fashion to fans’ concerns on prices.

A deal has been announced for the upcoming home game against Swansea on November 10 where season ticket holders can bring up to four friends at £10 each. Another, to be announced later this season, will allow them to bring a mate for free.

In April, tickets will be reduced to a fiver for the visit of Ipswich Town.

A half-season ticket has also been launched, kicking in on Boxing Day, which offers the remaining 12 home games of the season at £15.42 each.

Wanderers’ season ticket prices are pitched at the lower end in the Championship and quite comparable with teams in the local area. Protecting their value is the chief reason the club is unable to offer ticket discounts on a whim, and why any reduction would have to be considered in the longer term.

Right now, tickets for the Forest game tomorrow and Hull on Saturday are priced £26-30 for adults, £20-24 for Over-65s and Under-23s, £12 for Under-18s and £10 for Under-12s accompanied by an adult. They too compare with other Championship games at Leeds (£26-37 for an adult), Preston (£24-30) and Bristol City (£28-37), although West Brom’s recent stay in the Premier League makes them more affordable at £20-23.

Whether one-off offers actually work has been disputed, not least by Ken Anderson himself.

“We tried last year, did one game for £10 and it didn’t achieve anything,” he said. “I look at what the revenue is as well as the attendance, and it didn’t work. We did kids for a quid and it didn’t really work. Over two or three weeks we got about 630 in. And £630 at a pound each doesn’t really do anything.”

Away from the economic factors which may sway the average Wanderers fan from venturing out into the autumnal air to watch their team, is the question of entertainment.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder in football. And even Sam Allardyce was challenged on whether his Bolton team offered value for money when they were making their way in the Premier League.

Phil Parkinson’s pragmatic style got the results needed to gain promotion and secure safety last season – against the odds, in fact – but his third season has become somewhat of a hard sell.

Anderson has talked about a mid-table target but remains practical when he considers the budget with which this squad has been assembled.

“I know this isn’t necessarily what you want – but it’s a bit like West Ham or Liverpool. For me it’s not about playing attractive football, it’s about getting points and surviving and moving up the table,” was Anderson’s view at a recent fans’ Q&A.

“Would I like to play three or four strikers, like a Liverpool, and play attacking entertaining, football, well, ‘yes’. But we can’t afford them, unfortunately.”


Natasha Whittam

Natasha Whittam
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
The football is dire, only the hardcore are going to turn up every week.

Would you go to a restaurant serving up average food or watch a film that every one else has said is rubbish. Of course not. Football is no different for the majority of "fans".

The ratio of entertainment to cost is about as poor as it gets right now.


Tony Kelly
Tony Kelly
Unfortunately Ken if you can't afford to sign quality footballers and play winning football you won't be getting many more through the gate.
Bottom half of tier two standard fayre, which is what you are turning out will never get the crowd receipts you crave.

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