Is The EPL About To Break A 7-decade-old Record?

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EPL 2020

Seventy years on since English football’s attendance heyday, the Premier League is on course this season to achieve the highest mean top-flight gate of all time. Portsmouth and Newcastle United set the present record of 38,776 people per match in the 1948/49 season. The game ended with Portsmouth as the England champions, with Jackie Milburn being a key player in their victory.

Newcastle attracted a mean of 53,839 spectators to each of their 21 First Division home matches. Their largest single crowd that campaign was more than 67,000 fans.

Arsenal had the second biggest crowds, with Chelsea, Liverpool, Sunderland, Manchester United, Charlton, Everton, and Aston Villa recording average gates of more than 40,000 per match. The highest single gate crowd of the season for most clubs was north of 60,000.

However, new research for a ‘Popularity Issue’ of the annual GSSS (Global Sports Salaries Survey) predicts the Premier League in 2019/20 will break the 39,000 people per top-flight game barrier for the first time since league football started in 1888.

By the time each team had played 16 games this season, and each had played eight of the games at home, the mean gate was 39,293. With more than 40% of this season complete, the trend indicates that the 70-year record will fall.

In an era of saturation football, high ticket prices, and fatigue among many fans about the ills of ‘modern football,’ it’s amazing that such a record looks set to be broken. That’s because the Premier has continued to rise in popularity thanks to Betway soccer betting and other bookies that offer odds on league games. Nonetheless, Betway has the best odds.

Not long ago, the first season of the Premier League, in 1992/93, mean top-flight spectators were 21,125, which seemed healthy after the low of 18,856 in the old First Division in 1983/83 as hooliganism spoiled the game.

It wasn’t until the 1998/99 season that Manchester United bounced back to their widely-known treble in the Premier League era. That saw them register league spectators above 30,000 – they were 30,580 that season. Currently, it seems practical that England’s top flight may even register a season with an average of above 40,000 soon.

Only Germany’s Bundesliga has ever registered such huge figure, routinely more than 40,000 per game, and only the NFL in all professional sports has a significant average (67,000 last seasons)

There’re a few reasons why the Premier League continues to get more and more spectators through the turnstiles. First, there is a growing number of clubs with expanded or relatively new grounds with bigger capacities. More importantly, the league’s international TV advertisement continues rapidly, earning more in foreign broadcasting rights sales per season (£1.4billion) than any other sports league in the world. That has, in return, led to an increase in international football tourism.

VisitBritain’s current figures show that about 800,000 spectators attend an English football match when on tour from a foreign country per year. Traditionally the most visitors are from Scandinavia and across Ireland, but the latest research shows growth in many visitors from Brazil, China, India, and the USA. 

Fans routinely ridicule foreign visitors who see nothing strange about buying a half-and-half scarf. Still, they show an attraction of a Premier League on course to break new grounds.

Wole Oduwole
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