Sub-1,000 crowds in the top division.

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Sub-1,000 crowds in the top division.

Post by Scottish » Fri Mar 07, 2008 2:50 am

Only 501 at Fir Park last night for Gretna v Dundee United. I thought I'd posted these before but I can't trace them so here are all the sub-1,000 top flight crowds since 1961.

1962-63
909 Motherwell v Raith Rovers
654 Raith Rovers v Queen of the South
632 Raith Rovers v Dunfermline

1963-64
983 East Stirlingshire v Aberdeen
802 Airdrieonians v Dundee
559 East Stirlingshire v Motherwell

1964-65
988 Third Lanark v Dundee United
885 Airdrieonians v Dundee
860 Airdrieonians v Aberdeen
856 Third Lanark v Motherwell
412 Third Lanark v Airdrieonians

1965-66
995 Clyde v Dundee United
966 Hamilton v Dundee United
708 Hamilton v Partick Thistle
701 Hamilton v Dundee
471 Hamilton v St Johnstone

1966-67
951 Motherwell v St Mirren
946 Ayr United v St Mirren
835 St Mirren v St Johnstone
681 Partick Thistle v Ayr United

1967-68
999 Clyde v St Johnstone
943 Stirling Albion v Dundee United
614 Clyde v Raith Rovers

1968-69
833 Arbroath v Airdrieonians
643 Clyde v Arbroath
513 Clyde v Aberdeen

1970-71
950 Cowdenbeath v Ayr United
875 Cowdenbeath v Clyde

1980-81
973 Kilmarnock v Morton

1984-85
979 Dumbarton v Morton
909 Morton v Dundee United
818 Dumbarton v Dundee United

2007-08
501 Gretna v Dundee United


Last night's gate was the lowest since Hamilton v St Johnstone in 1966, the first sub-1,000 for 23 seasons and the third lowest overall for at least 47 years. Accurate figures for all clubs aren't available before 1961-62.

You'll note the oft-cited figure of 430 for Clydebank v Dundee United in 1977-78 is missing. That's because the figure for that game reported to the SFL was 1,030.

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Post by lbb » Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:07 am

I think the Clydebank-Dundee Utd match was (wrongly, as you've shown) quoted by either Chick Young or Bill Leckie on Radio Scotland last night. RS had said there was 'breaking news' at Fir Park and went to Leckie who announced the attendance figure. I thought this was the 'breaking news'. Leckie went on to announce to the nation that Gretna were in serious financial trouble before revealing that John Lennon had been shot dead.

Seems the attendance figure could have been much worse, according to Leckie, were it not for a couple of hundred United diehards (more than Leckie thought would turn up) and the inclusion of sundry directors, scouts, players, coaches, VIP's, macaroon bar salesmen, etc. in the Main Stand 'filling' the ground up. Quite an embarrassment.

I would offer in Gretna's defence that, IIRC, this match was hastily rescheduled from Tuesday, that Fir Park postponements have been so regular this season that anyone would think twice about taking on a 150-mile round trip and that said distance has to be a factor in regular supporters attending their matches.

Gretna are still a standing joke in Scottish football now, it has to be said.

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Post by Scottish » Fri Mar 07, 2008 11:14 am

Distance works both ways. How many of the hardy band who travelled from Tayside last night would have added another 150 miles to their journey by going on to Raydale?

The same goes for all their home games. They've drawn more spectators by playing in Motherwell than they would have in Gretna. I can't think of a single match other than possibly last night and the game v ICT which would have drawn a bigger crowd at Raydale than Fir Park.

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Post by lbb » Fri Mar 07, 2008 11:29 am

They got 3000 when they played against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup at Raydale. What was their average in the First Division? 1000-2000? And, by all accounts, they had about 100 actual supporters there last night. So it's safe to say they've lost at least 1000 punters and possibly as much as 2000 punters by being forced to play 75 miles away. How many Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen punters would have gone to Gretna for the trip, the day out? Perhaps more than would have fancied a third or fourth trip to Fir Park in a season. Different pubs, different grounds, new experience.

I don't know the state of Raydale - I've heard everything from it being good enough for Div 1 to a claim that it wouldn't cut the mustard in the Juniors - but it was a daft decision asking them to play so far from their limited supporter base (as it was for ICT, I should add).

It doesn't explain the full range of Gretna's problems but the SPL have made a bad situation worse. The sooner the season is over for them, the better.

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Post by Scottish » Fri Mar 07, 2008 11:43 am

Brooks Mileson paid for 3,000 tickets v Dundee United out of his own pocket- an entirely different thing from 3,000 turning up. Last season they only drew four crowds above 2,000 in the league and two of them were v QoS.

Their average last season was 1,602. Even taking last night into account they are averaging just over 2,500 in the SPL. I'll admit the novelty of playing at Raydale might have encouraged a few more away fans to go there - for the first match at any rate - but Raydale's capacity is/was 2,200 (a temporary stand was used for the Dundee Utd cup tie). Even selling out every game (which they wouldn't have done) would have produced lower crowds than playing at Fir Park.

But it was never an option. Lack of seating and segregation saw to that. Brunton Park might have been a better bet.

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Post by lbb » Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:02 pm

I get the point now re capacity.

All of this being the case - no fan base, a negligible ground capacity requiring fortunes to upgrade, no infrastructure to speak of - what on earth was Mileson thinking when he invested in Gretna? What was the plan? If he'd put money into a team like, I dunno, Queen of the South or Partick Thistle, a club with supporters then it might have made sense. There appears to be no sense, no point, in taking Gretna to the SPL only to let them disappear out of existence.

I always imagined the guy was some eccentric millionaire and that when Gretna reached to the top flight (as he always claimed was his ambition), then the stadium and players would appear overnight. Gretna had demolished their way through the divisions under Mileson, hadn't they? Yet as soon as they got into the SPL, the rug seems to have been pulled from them. Why would you bother getting them there if you had no interest in keeping them there? Was Mileson all he seemed? Does he really have the fortune he claims? Was it just unfortunate coincidence that his family, as rumoured, put a stop to his funding of the club just as they reached the SPL?

It's been a very strange episode in Scottish football.

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Post by StAndrewsHMFC » Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:28 pm

I think if Mileson fell in love with the town club then there is a point investing in the team. After all who are we to tell him what to do with his money.

However- I did assume the idea would be to get Gretna up the leagues for a year or to in the sun and sort out the infastructure so they could live out there days as a well run 2nd division club (1st at a stretch). In reality it seems that the infastructure at the club has not been well organised, but surely Mileson wouldn't just let them go bust?

As for there ground I was down there last weekend and had a look at it. Its pretty poor and would really need sorting out, but if they built the 6,000 eco stadium what would be the point?

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Post by lbb » Fri Mar 07, 2008 1:56 pm

There were strong rumours last season that the Gretna management - if not Mileson himself - were reluctant to go up hence their (almost) implosion in the run-in. It may well have suited them to stay in Division One for a few years and build up some supporter loyalty, a stadium of sorts and an infrastructure of some kind. Then again, they can hardly claim it's all happened too fast when they were pretty ruthless in their determination to go through the leagues - binning players on an annual basis and paying (allegedly) SPL wages in the lower leagues. They can't have been that shocked when they got promoted, surely.

As I said, it's a strange one. Either Mileson is a millionaire and his spending on the club has stopped due to his illness and his family perhaps worrying about their inheritance. Or he's modestly wealthy, exaggerated his fortune and most of the 'Gretna dream' has been facilitated by bank borrowing and overdrafts and the day of reckoning is now upon them - particularly when the bank saw that the SPL millions weren't going to materialise.

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Fri Mar 07, 2008 2:21 pm

lbb wrote:They got 3000 when they played against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup at Raydale. What was their average in the First Division? 1000-2000? And, by all accounts, they had about 100 actual supporters there last night. So it's safe to say they've lost at least 1000 punters and possibly as much as 2000 punters by being forced to play 75 miles away. How many Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen punters would have gone to Gretna for the trip, the day out? Perhaps more than would have fancied a third or fourth trip to Fir Park in a season. Different pubs, different grounds, new experience.

I don't know the state of Raydale - I've heard everything from it being good enough for Div 1 to a claim that it wouldn't cut the mustard in the Juniors - but it was a daft decision asking them to play so far from their limited supporter base (as it was for ICT, I should add).

It doesn't explain the full range of Gretna's problems but the SPL have made a bad situation worse. The sooner the season is over for them, the better.
I don't think it's anything like safe to say they've "lost" 1,000 punters by moving from Raydale. They never had that. Their crowds last season were significantly boosted by visits of Queen of the South in particular, but also large away supports from Partick and, most surprisingly, Livingston early season and by the fact they were giving several hundred tickets per weeks away to local schools in a bid to entice support away from Carlisle United and Queen of the South.

Raydale is probably inadequate for first division purposes as it stands. It needs significant remedial work.

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Post by lbb » Fri Mar 07, 2008 2:52 pm

Skyline Drifter wrote: I don't think it's anything like safe to say they've "lost" 1,000 punters by moving from Raydale. They never had that. Their crowds last season were significantly boosted by visits of Queen of the South in particular, but also large away supports from Partick and, most surprisingly, Livingston early season and by the fact they were giving several hundred tickets per weeks away to local schools in a bid to entice support away from Carlisle United and Queen of the South.

Raydale is probably inadequate for first division purposes as it stands. It needs significant remedial work.
I realise it's v. handy for Queens supporters but are you saying that when they got, say, 1300 against Ross County that a good number of these would be County supporters? They must have a support somewhere. I take your point about giving tickets away to schools. This might not be financially sustainable but is another avenue for boosting attendance blocked to them by playing at Fir Park. Motherwell is too near Glasgow for it be an option there too - as Motherwell FC would probably testify.

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Fri Mar 07, 2008 4:14 pm

lbb wrote:
Skyline Drifter wrote: I don't think it's anything like safe to say they've "lost" 1,000 punters by moving from Raydale. They never had that. Their crowds last season were significantly boosted by visits of Queen of the South in particular, but also large away supports from Partick and, most surprisingly, Livingston early season and by the fact they were giving several hundred tickets per weeks away to local schools in a bid to entice support away from Carlisle United and Queen of the South.

Raydale is probably inadequate for first division purposes as it stands. It needs significant remedial work.
I realise it's v. handy for Queens supporters but are you saying that when they got, say, 1300 against Ross County that a good number of these would be County supporters? They must have a support somewhere. I take your point about giving tickets away to schools. This might not be financially sustainable but is another avenue for boosting attendance blocked to them by playing at Fir Park. Motherwell is too near Glasgow for it be an option there too - as Motherwell FC would probably testify.
No, obviously there weren't many County supporters there, but a fair number, perhaps as many as half, were there on complimentaries and some others would be from the Annan area who support Queen of the South but go to Gretna games when Queens are away.

They were also winning almost every week in the past three seasons and it's a lot easier to get people, particularly young families, to come along when success is a virtual guarantee.

I'm not saying they didn't have a capability to raise a four figure support on occasions but it's seriously disingenuous to suggest they've "lost" 1,000 fans a week by going to Motherwell to play. They haven't. In actual fee paying terms they've lost probably something under half of that, which was inevitable if you move 80 odd miles from your locality and start losing every week when your relatively new found existing support have seen nothing but unparalleled success.

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Post by Scottish » Fri Mar 07, 2008 7:39 pm

Gretna’s average gate in their first season in the SFL was just 408 – only Montrose and East Stirling were lower. In their second season that rose to 461 and there were four clubs with lower averages. They didn’t really start to gain support until as SD points out – they started winning regularly. In 2004-05 when they won the Third Division their gates rose to 896 and they were ranked 26th in crowds. In the Second Division that rose again to 1,306. They were helped that season by the presence of some traditionally higher placed sides like Morton, Partick Thistle and Ayr United. They rose to 23rd in terms of attendances.

So the rise to 1,602 in the 1st division wasn’t all that big a jump and they only moved up one place in the attendances table. This season their gates have jumped by over 50% - a slightly higher percentage rise than St Mirren and Falkirk before them. They are currently 17th in attendances.

However because they are undoubtedly the poorest supported side to gain promotion for many years – if not ever – they will end up with the worst average gate in the top division since the reduction from 18 clubs in 1975. In fact to find a comparable average you have to go back to Third Lanark – not a happy comparison to make – with 2,701 in 1964-65. As Gretna are extremely unlikely to climb back above that figure they look set to become the worst supported top flight side for the period for which records are available for all clubs – since 1961.

But it’s actually worse than that. They are definitely the worst supported in the top flight since WW2 and I estimate them to have the lowest top flight crowds since Cowdenbeath with 1,763 back in 1933-34. And back then, remember, clubs only played each other twice and there were twenty clubs in the top division.

On a couple of other points raised: St Andrews is absolutely right. Mileson can spend or not spend his money as he sees fit. I don’t go along with those who complain about Gretna ‘buying’ success. Sure they have. So what? The OF have done precisely the same for over a century.

lbb says they may have been reluctant to go up last season. Possibly. But I reckon it’s equally possible that their falling away last season had something to do with the loss of Rowan Alexander as it happened at around the time he left/was forced out/went on the sick/ delete as appropriate.

I have no idea as to how wealthy Brooks Mileson is but it definitely takes a lot less to bankroll a club in the SFL than it does in the SPL. I understand he approached Carlisle initially but, perhaps as a reaction to Michael Knighton’s time as chairman, they rejected his move. In addition to Gretna Mileson has donated cash to many other ‘small’ clubs and supporters organisations.

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Post by Scottish » Fri Mar 07, 2008 7:59 pm

Just to add to that last post: Gretna are NOT the lowest supported side to gain promotion to the top division. That 'honour' belongs to Dumbarton who were promoted in 1983-84 on average gates of 857. The next season Clydebank went up on an average of 1,080. In 1967-68 Arbroath had 1,387 and in 1964-65 Hamilton had just 1,337. In fairness to the last two they are hardly comparable as they gained promotion to a division of eighteen and their division consisted of clubs ranked 19-37. Gretna's was with clubs ranked 13-22 and Dumbarton and Clydebank were among clubs ranked 11-24.

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:25 pm

scottish wrote:Gretna’s average gate in their first season in the SFL was just 408 – only Montrose and East Stirling were lower. In their second season that rose to 461 and there were four clubs with lower averages. They didn’t really start to gain support until as SD points out – they started winning regularly.

lbb says they may have been reluctant to go up last season. Possibly. But I reckon it’s equally possible that their falling away last season had something to do with the loss of Rowan Alexander as it happened at around the time he left/was forced out/went on the sick/ delete as appropriate.
Two points to address there.

Firstly, you're correct, I did point out that crowds were inevitably bigger as they won every week and routinely by large amounts too. However, I maybe didn't emphasise enough that the undeniable reason for an average in four figures was the extraordinary number of free tickets they gave out through their schools visits and 'Gretna in the Community' programmes. They had three full time staff visiting schools as far afield as Sanquhar in the North and Creetown in the West of the region giving free coaching under the Gretna banner and giving tickets away like confetti at a wedding. That was the real reason crowds went up to the levels they did.

As for the "fall way" last season, certainly the disruption of Alexander's departure didn't help but it had started before that. They paid off several senior pros before and during the mid-season window last season in a bid straight away to cut costs. This has been coming for some time. Ironically we were significant beneficiaries of that policy picking up as we did Steve Tosh, Jamie McQuilken and then Neil MacFarlane as a result.

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Post by lbb » Mon Mar 10, 2008 9:24 am

scottish wrote: lbb says they may have been reluctant to go up last season. Possibly. But I reckon it’s equally possible that their falling away last season had something to do with the loss of Rowan Alexander as it happened at around the time he left/was forced out/went on the sick/ delete as appropriate.

I have no idea as to how wealthy Brooks Mileson is but it definitely takes a lot less to bankroll a club in the SFL than it does in the SPL. I understand he approached Carlisle initially but, perhaps as a reaction to Michael Knighton’s time as chairman, they rejected his move. In addition to Gretna Mileson has donated cash to many other ‘small’ clubs and supporters organisations.
It seems Mileson is in personal financial bother too -

http://www.sundaymail.co.uk/news/scotti ... -20344424/

There's nothing wrong, per se, with borrowing money to build a club up, become successful - it was pretty much the Holmes plan for Rangers in 1986. I'm just curious as to where Mileson thought Gretna could go (they seemed determined to get into the SPL) and how he thought it would be sustained when they got there.

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