Scottish football attendances – what’s your view? Is the nation really falling out of love with the game, is the product overpriced for what it has to offer, or are the stadium’s too big and Scotland too small? Here, John Fraser looks at the problem of Inverness Caley Thistle; a side excelling in the Premier League, but still struggling to improve numbers in the stands.
By John Fraser – @HDTreatmentBlog
The recent attack on Inverness Caledonian Thistle attendances by manager Terry Butcher, while admirable, is slightly too simplistic to look at in black and white.
An attendance of 2,529 saw ICT draw 1-1 with Kilmarnock two weeks ago. Prior to last Saturday’s 3-0 drubbing inflicted by Motherwell, this result left ICT in 2nd place in the league. Butcher’s side of the argument, quite rightly, focused on this:
“I honestly don’t know how much more we can do. We played some of the best football of the season,” said the Englishman.
“Does this city deserve a football team like we’ve got? I don’t know.
“I know it’s difficult weather, but I don’t know how much more we can do.”
“We cannot do any more: second in the table, could have gone three points clear of our nearest rivals for second place with eight games to go before the split.”
Just to make it clear for anyone who didn’t get it the third time, he just doesn’t know what more he can do. This the black and white view. Some cynics may suggest that this is a case of Butcher reminding everyone he did ICT a favour by rejecting the advances from Barnsley and now he wants something in return.
We have to however accept several realisms faced by Scottish football.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle in their current state, have only existed since 1994. Prior to this you were asking the Inverness public to pick a side if they wanted to support a non-Highland league team. The Old Firm won, as they do in a lot of other towns and cities throughout Scotland. Any time I visit the Highland capital, it always strikes me how many Old Firm shirts I see parading down the streets. Not only did ICT, by and large, have to create a fan base from scratch but they also had to compete with already established Old Firm allegiances.
Regardless of the ‘Die-Hardness’ of your commitment to your team and to Scottish football over the global football market, you have to question the logic of the organisers. Wednesday night in winter, Champions League on the TV, ‘dinging doon wi’ sna’, Killie for the fourth time already this season…… deary me. Fighting a losing battle there already. Anyone who has been to Caley’s ground and knows the location will understand that this particular fixture was not for the faint hearted.
And yes I know, ‘real’ fans should be watching their team and not the Champions League. But times have changed. A large portion of Scottish football fans will now choose watching English Premier League, Champions League, etc. in their home or in the pub over physically attending an SPL match. Regardless of your own personal stance, this is how it is.
ICT fans potentially had to pay £26 for the pleasure of the Killie match. I ask anyone to fully justify that pricing strategy. Personally, my trips to the football involve a lot more than the expense of the match ticket. Pub, pies, programme, bookies, transport…. in fact I found I was doing more of this to make up for the rubbish I was watching on the pitch. My attempt at salvaging a good day out placed the actual match down the undercard rather than the headline event.
I realise these arguments, and more, all warrant deeper examination and debate. I haven’t even begun to discuss the quality of the product on offer. But the fact is we have been talking about them for years. The decline is not sudden; it should not be a surprise. Yet we plod on, season after season, maintaining the status quo.
To be fair on Butcher, there isn’t much more he can do. It becomes the responsibility of the football administrators, both SFA/SPL and then within each club. Heaven help us all then.
So, what’s the problem? Overpriced? Poor entertainment? Wrong format? Give us your thoughts on Twitter @talkingbaws or comment below.