Hello my fellow football fans. I’m going to go out on a limb here and presume that most people who read this blog are regularly seen at League of Ireland grounds on a Friday night or are people who keenly follow it from week to week. There has been a lot of talk lately, in the national press, regarding the old chestnut of the bartstooler V LOI fan. There have been 2 articles in recent weeks suggesting that LOI fans want the league and clubs to remain in the sorry state that they’re currently in and scoff at the notion of “new” fans coming along.
What a load of rubbish.
I know I touched upon it recently but I thought I’d bring it up, as the issue of attendances has cropped up again. We’re always talking about this and there never seems to be any sort of agreement on how to get more people in the gate, be it price, PR or whatever. For me what it really boils down to is the appetite for football in the town or region that a club is located and a prime example of that is Dundalk. While us Drogs like to pour scorn over our rivals, the one thing we can’t take the mick out of them for is the support that they receive from the local people. Granted, they’re playing well at the moment and of course that’s going to attract more people but the club have found a way to get into the minds of people in the town and get them up to Oriel. Actually, being just successful isn’t really enough to attract more through the turnstiles, despite what pundits or analysts say.
Just look at us last season, our most successful season since the glory days of Doolo & co and we were lucky to break the 1,000 mark and when we did it was mainly down to the away side bringing up the total to make it look reasonable. If you only counted the Drogs section then there would have been no more than about 800 or so. So while in 2012 we were entertaining the idea of a shock league title and winning some silverware in the league cup, we still couldn’t attract more people to United Park. Dundalk, who are in the same situation this season, are regularly hitting 1,500+ figure for home attendances and last week broke the 3,200 barrier for their game against Sligo. That for me shows that the football has more of an interest in Dundalk than it does in Drogheda and most people are happy to spend their money in the pub to watch the likes of Cardiff v Hull City.
Not that supporting those clubs is anything bad, it’s just a pity that those people can’t do both. And one reason that they can’t do both is the cost. I don’t care what anyone says or tries to justify, but E15 to watch LOI football is too expensive, especially in these times. If someone has the choice of sitting in the boozer and spending that money on 3 pints rather than standing up in United Park, then unless they’re die hard fans, they’ll spend it in the pub. There’s no incentive for the casual supporter to attend. The price simply states that you’re either a fan or you’re not. There’s nothing to attract even lapsed supporters who might have gone up in the past but have drifted away now. The money situation won’t drastically increase the attendance but this type of project isn’t a short term solution, it’s a long term one and if the club and the league only ever look at short term solutions then it’ll simply paper over the cracks and not fix it.
The condition of the ground is also an issue but Oriel Park isn’t exactly a state of the art ground, which shows, that people are willing to watch football, it’s just how they’ve been approached. Another point that was mentioned to me is that atmosphere since the Ultra’s Sligo debacle has died a complete death. Now I’ve not advocating that any bans should be reversed, as the punishments dished out at the time were required and by and large accepted by those accused. But, at the end of the season, would there be any consideration of a reprieve of sorts? I mean, at the end of the day, it wasn’t what we want to see at a football match but it’s not like they committed a murder or anything? I mean even murders get a chance of parole at some stage during their sentence.
If there’s no atmosphere, then regardless of what the players do, it doesn’t make watching the game interesting and to be fair to the lads, when they did create an atmosphere with their displays and flags then it was pretty good, even outstanding at times. I don’t expect the club to make any amendments this season but I do hope that some sort of conversation happens in the off season and agreements can be met.
For me, going to watch football isn’t all about what happens on the pitch, it’s also what happens in the terraces and if it’s not interesting then it can be quite boring. Just ask people who have stopped going to some English Premier League games over here, especially Arsenal who I live near, and they’ll tell you that since moving to the Emirates, the atmosphere is like walking around a tourist attraction on a Saturday afternoon with no one interested in the game and simply buying up loads of merchandise and taking various selfie photos on their smartphones!
As much as the club needs to run it’s finances prudently it needs to have a serious look at how to promote itself better. I do acknowledge that there are people doing this already and I’m delighted to see the amount of activity via the social media sites and on the official club website. That’s all good and required but rather than getting in people’s faces and asking them to come up to UP and pay E15, let’s run some promotions, especially when there are double headers and offer a cheaper 2 game package. It’s not rocket science and maybe doesn’t fit into whatever budget was originally intended but surely offering a 2 game package for E20 or E25 isn’t going to bankrupt the club. Even for games where the away side will bring a small crowd IE. UCD, why not a bring a friend for free type deal? When those deals happen, you need to have something in place to supplement the loss of gate receipt so have a stall setup with loads of merchandise, food etc.
It’s a simple sales technique; you lure them in with an offer and then hit them with various other opportunities to part with their money. And I really do believe that promotions like that would attract more people and get some of them to return on a regular basis. We’re living in an age where everyone is looking for a deal, so let’s give the people of Drogheda who like football a deal which they can’t refuse and make sure that they enjoy it.