LOI fans are not scary | No atmosphere at games | United Park too pricey

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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!

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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.

If you didn’t read the excellent article by Gerry Farrell on Backpagefootball.com then access it HERE. It’s well worth a read.

 

About Fabrice

I'm a Drogheda Utd fan living in London who is missing the thrills and spills of Friday night football. This blog is a way for me to get closer to the action and provide an alternative media for Drogs fans to express their views without being singled out by others.
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7 Comments

  1. The LOI would want to sort itself out, there was tickets for the Real Madrid game at the weekend at the Bernabeu in the league that cost 17 euro, and most LOI games cost 15 euro, this put it into context.

  2. Mate im not being funny but your points here are ridiculous. I think youve become completely removed from reality. I get incredibly irritated when people keep churning over the same old stories over and over again. Your home attendances are low because people in Drogheda dont care about LOI football when you are winning or losing. Thats a simple fact. Your club charges 15 quid into a game because if it goes any lower it will go bust. Like, in all seriousness, do you not think people running the club who care about it and worry over all the problems day in day out dont have the cop on to know if it was 10 euro more people might come?? Of course they do! Also, this season if they had have taken that perilous risk and reduced prices to 10 euro your club would be bust right now. The fact is, those 800 supporters either pay 15 euro in or you have no club at all.

    Here is an idea, why dont you write an article about an original idea. Something like ‘Where has the activism and spirit of DUFC supporters during examinership gone’ or ‘Why do most people care enough to complain, but not enough to get involved in fixing problems or working for their club as a volunteer’. The sad fact is that most LOI supporters and Drogheda United supporters dispise the ‘barstooler’. But in actual fact they themselves are LOI barstoolers – someone who watches on from the sidelines, complains about all the problems each Friday night, but does absolutely nothing to help fix them. Never mind do anything to help fundraising for their beloved club. There is as much apathy in Drogheda United supporters for their ‘beloved’ club, as their is with Irish people for the LOI.

    In Dundalk the crowds are up because of the bandwagoners, but there does seem to be many more people here willing to get involved helping us to drive forward.

    By the way, i cant believe you are actually suggesting to let the thugs from the Sligo game back in because the atmosphere is gone quiet in UP. Thats just ridiculous.

    Honest Dundalk fan.

    • Churning out the same old stuff? I’m raising the question again because it never gets addressed. I completely understand that the change in price policy may hamper the club, but at the end of the day, if a club like Dundalk can charge E10, then why can’t Drogheda?

      You’re right about one thing though, people in Drogheda don’t care about LOI football but they do care about football and my point is that if we’re to attract those lapsed supporters or “barstoolers” then there needs to be some incentive. Simply asking someone with a vague interest in LOI football to pay E15 each week is not an incentive.

      The fact is, if E10 was charged, there would be a little increase in the 800 going to games plus you’d also attract more away support due to the prices. For me, I often used to choose which away game to go to depending on the cost because, simply, I couldn’t afford to pay premium prices every week.

      There are plenty of people working for the club as a volunteer but during examinership there was only a small amount of people involved in all of that and those people are still there now. All the highlighted activism was from a small band of people shouting loudly than a large amount of people involved, and I should know, I was part of it!

      LOI supporters don’t despise bartstoolers. I don’t and many of my mates don’t. I despise people who scoff at the league and don’t have anything constructive to say but by and large when those who ask me who do I support, and I reply with DUFC, often ask me more about it. This is just a myth that the media like to portray to make regular attending LOI fans look like small minded morons.

      I’m sure that there are plenty of bandwagoners in Dundalk, but it’s easier to keep hold of a bandwagoner when you’re not overcharging them and offer different things, IE. A nice club bar which Oriel has etc. You should be lucky that you have a club like that who is actively attracting the bandwagoner. DUFC couldn’t even attract those last season.

      The lads who got banned, deserve it, I’m not questioning that. But for the sake of some drunken idiots, is it worth losing the atmosphere at games and income? Maybe if there’s dialogue and remorse shown, then perhaps they should be considered.

  3. interesting stuff.
    Here’s my two cents. The difference between attendances in Drogheda and Dundalk is down to an appetite for football but this can be divided into two sections, current interest and longterm interest. Current interest in Dundalk is high but longterm interest is only marginally higher than Drogheda. Dundalk haven’t seen success in years, hence the big level of interest, the levels we saw under Doolin in the Premier league. I remember Drogheda coasting to the first division title before that and filling UP for a meeting with Dublin City and taking close to 1000 to the Showgrounds to clinch the title.
    E15 is too much to charge in to UP but charging E10 wont change much. The appetite for football in Drogheda is corroding with United Park. The only thing that will increase longterm interest is a new community based stadium. If the cup finals, european games and big friendlies were played in Drogheda, I believe there would be a 20-30% increase in longterm interest. A huge opportunity to capitalize on the on pitch success was missed and we are suffering for that now.
    Good work with the blog!

    • Agree about the new stadium and it’s facilities. We need a focal point of decent quality to give people an incentive to go to live matches. The thing is, I’ve tried to avoid mentioning a new ground (which as a long term solution is the main one) as we haven’t heard anything about it.

      I hope it happens and changes the culture of football watching in Drogheda as I can’t see much else working.

  4. Lads you have to take your passion hat off when thinking about finances. A football club is a business and a football club who has no money has to be run so carefully. Drogs have no money in the bank as such. Now if you can put your hand on your and tell me that if the gate prices were dropped by a massive 33%, that 33% (about 270) more people would IMMEDIATELY attend games in order to make up the fall off as a result of reducing prices to 10 euro, then great? But if you can, then im glad you are not running your club because that is called risk taking, and the price to pay is the greatest of all – extinction.

    It is different here in Dundalk, the club is owned by someone who has money and is willing to put it in and has underwritten the club for any losses it might make. Your club is fan owned and if it makes a loss it goes under. We also charge 15 euro in for the entire main stand. Yes, there are 10 euro ticket options but we have a stand that is priced at 15 and is used. For 10 euro you stand/sit outside or enter the shed with all the noise. Another reason why we can have the lower prices to get new supporters in is that we have an owner who has underwritten the business.

    Ive seen it so many times on message boards, where every drog and his dog is churning out the old line about we saved the club during examinership. But you are right, a small group of people organsied the facilities to collect the money needed. In general the masses did very little, granted they donated money where possible. But those people who claim to have saved the club because they donated 10 euro are the moaners im talking about. That kind of attitude is holding you back.

    I commend your volunteers running your club. They manage to keep the doors open and a successful team on the pitch, on a measly 800 people a week. Honestly if other clubs with larger crowds could do that they would be in the champions league. Very few drogs fans seem to realise that getting to finals and winning trophies with no budget is nothing short of a miracle. Just ask the long suffering supporters of Bray and teams like that. If we in Dundalk could convert our current gate incomes like that we would be a serious challenger every year.

    And again, i see the point about not having finals in Drogheda. But the FAI make those decisions and anyway, you can harldy blame your club for going to Tallaght in the knowledge that it will secure them 10 grand more and allow them to keep your doors open. Im sure they are just as disappointed but they want the club to survive more.

    Its the same all around the league. Proper progress will not be seen until the current supporters get of their arses and help their clubs in their towns or cities. A club with a small budget could do a massive amount with an army of only 50-100 people willing to help. But constantly talking about it and rambling along on the terraces, messagboards and social media will not achieve a thing.

    The people who were banned for life after Sligo should remain so. That was the worst price of LOI thuggery in recent years. Im sure you lads might know these people from games and think they are alright lads, but behaviour like that is inexcusable and should be stamped out. Fair play for doing it in the first place. Dont back down now, just move on.

    • I’ve no doubt that running a football club is extremely hard and that any change in costs could be detrimental to the finances but like in any business and in life, if you make a cut in one area, then you pass it onto somewhere else.

      Now obviously, if nothing can’t be cut and I mean literally nothing without causing the club not to function then fair enough but I don’t believe that dropping the terrace and stand tickets by a fiver will make the club go bust. It just means that we don’t pay silly money to the staff, playing and management.

      Dundalk may be different but having it all unwritten by one man is a dangerous game unless it’s managed properly. I just hope that for your sake that it is run properly.

      DUFC is a fans owned club, but technically only by a very small amount of fans. You do know that it costs E1,000 to be a member? Whatever about E15 to go into the gate, I can’t see too many people shelling out a Grand to be a member of a club.

      I watch a small non league club called Enfield Town over here, they are supporters owned and I’m a member. They charge £10 a year to be a member. I get a vote at the AGM or at any members meetings and no major decision is made without consulting the members first. They attract an average of 350-400 per home game but are run very well. They suffer the same fate as most LOI clubs but understand that attracting supporters is about affordability as well as other reasons.

      They’re not going to go bust any time soon, that’s for sure.

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