4 September 2006

Our Loyal Support (Courtesy of OWC)

Before Saturday's match (embarassment!) against Iceland I was asked about an article on our attendances and how recent successes (!) have affected them. Thankfully, I remembered someone else had already done this!

An article appeared in the Our Wee Country fanzine a number of years ago detailing attendances at Windsor Park over the post-war period, and has been linked from their website below (though you can't get to it from the homepage at the minute). Go read it first, then come back to me...

We'll Support You Ever More

... finished? Ok.

To bring it up-to-date -

World Cup 2002 Qualifiers:
High 11,823 (v. Denmark), Low 6,625 (v. Iceland), Average 8,941
Euro 2004 Qualifiers:
High 11,365 (v. Spain), Low 7,196 (Greece), Average 9,116
World Cup 2006 Qualifiers:
High 14,000 (Azerbaijan, England, Wales), Low 11,830 (Austria), Average 13,263

Friendlies under Sammy McIlroy:
High 11,103 (Spain), Low 6,095 (Yugoslavia), Average 7,742
Friendlies under Lawrie Sanchez:
High 14,000 (Portugal, Estonia), Low 9,600 (Serbia & Montenegro), Average 11,924

Frankly, I'm still not convinced of the accuracy of the IFA's attendance figures. The game against Iceland on Saturday had a reported crowd of 14,500, despite several hundred empty seats in the Railway Stand!

During the infamous goal drought under Sammy McIlroy attendances actually improved. Credit for this must go to various fans groups and the IFA for working to improve the atmosphere at Windsor Park. Another factor must surely have been the siege mentality that developed, or the "car-crash" viewing that were some of the team performances. Certainly the atmosphere at some of these games was superb as the fans rallied around their embattled heroes.

What is fairly evident under Sanchez is the effect of the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign. Demand for tickets for the England (and to lesser extent Wales) game ensured Block Bookings were sold-out, and an almost maximum attendance was guaranteed at each game. The linking of a friendly with Canada to guaranteed tickets for the Anniversary match with Germany ensured an otherwise run-of-the-mill friendly had an attendance over 11,000.

Attendance at a friendly match against Estonia then ensured Block Booking seats for the Euro 2008 qualifiers, which inevitably sold-out following the feel-good factor achieved in the last campaign (through both results and atmosphere).

This clever ticket allocation and improved marketing has enabled the IFA to take advantage of a favourable World Cup draw held almost three years ago now, and ensured Windsor Park will be bulging for at least another year into the future.

Will the crowds hold if results slip and future draws are not so favourable? We'll have to wait and see...

Update: The average home attendance for the Euro 2008 qualifying series was exactly (ahem) 14,500.

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