Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of Scoop.it! Football Finance

The Magic of Football – still there in the Cups?

Posted by John Beech on January 27, 2012

It’s increasingly difficult to see any magic in the beautiful game other than black magic, especially when you look at it from a financial perspective.  You only need to think of the narrow escapes at Plymouth and Wrexham recently, and both Portsmouth and Darlington are standing on the edge of the precipice.

The Cups may be a different matter however.  Recently Louise Taylor suggested that the FA Cup Third Round had failed to cast any magic on fans (1).  Below I’ve taken her data and, in italics, added some more.  It struck me that whatever magic there might be would be associated with the possibility of a giant-killing, or, as the BBC have started to call it, a ‘cupset’.  Did the possibility of a cupset bring out the fans, especially in the case where the ‘minnow’ was playing at home.

Home Club

Tier

Away Club

Tier

Away – Home Tier

FA Cup attendance

Average league attendance

Difference

MK Dons

3

QPR

1

-2

19,506

8,217

11,289

Swindon Town

4

Wigan

1

-3

13,238

7,887

5,351

Bristol Rovers

4

Aston Villa

1

-3

10,883

6,122

4,761

Gillingham

4

Stoke

1

-3

9,872

5,482

4,390

Macclesfield Town

4

Bolton

1

-3

5,757

2,222

3,535

Fleetwood Town

5

Blackpool

2

-3

5,092

1,781

3,311

Dagenham & Redbridge

4

Millwall

2

-2

3,396

2,161

1,235

Crawley Town

4

Bristol City

2

-2

3,779

3,181

598

Brighton and Hove Albion

2

Wrexham

5

3

18,573

18,595

-22

Chelsea

1

Portsmouth

2

1

41,529

41,632

-103

Manchester City

1

Manchester United

1

0

46,808

47,013

-205

Doncaster Rovers

2

Notts County

3

1

9,535

9,750

-215

Peterborough United

2

Sunderland

1

-1

8,954

9,233

-279

Liverpool

1

Oldham

3

2

44,556

44,857

-301

Tottenham Hotspur

1

Cheltenham

4

3

35,672

36,071

-399

Sheffield Wednesday

3

West Ham

2

-1

17,916

20,041

-2,125

Barnsley

2

Swansea

1

-1

7,380

10,719

-3,339

Norwich City

1

Burnley

2

1

22,898

26,516

-3,618

Nottingham Forest

2

Leicester

2

0

18,477

22,224

-3,747

Watford

2

Bradford

4

2

8,935

12,731

-3,796

Birmingham City

2

Wolverhampton

1

-1

14,594

18,682

-4,088

Fulham

1

Charlton

3

2

20,317

25,315

-4,998

Middlesbrough

2

Shrewsbury

4

2

12,631

18,164

-5,533

Coventry City

2

Southampton

2

0

9,000

14,813

-5,813

Everton

1

Tamworth

5

4

27,564

33,407

-5,843

Reading

2

Stevenage

3

1

11,295

18,554

-7,259

Sheffield United

3

Salisbury

6

3

10,488

18,559

-8,071

Hull City

2

Ipswich

2

0

10,246

18,922

-8,676

West Bromwich Albion

1

Cardiff

2

1

12,454

24,794

-12,340

Derby County

2

Crystal Palace

2

0

10,113

26,133

-16,020

Newcastle United

1

Blackburn

1

0

30,876

48,866,

-17,990

Totals

2.29

2.32

1

522,334

602,644

-80,310

I have added the away teams, the tiers in which each team plays, and the difference between the tiers at each game.  The list has been sorted into an order from the greatest increase to the greatest drop in the number attending.

The results are not entirely surprising.  Where the home team is two or more divisions below the away team, the fans have turned out in extra numbers.  At games like Everton v. Tamworth and Sheffield United v. Salisbury, the home fans staying away outnumber any boost in the ‘minnow’s’ away following.  The two biggest differences are at matches between clubs in the same division.  Overall there is a fairly clear picture of the FA Cup lacking magic except when a home team might just cause a cupset.

Below is a graphic representation with a rather unscientific trendline.

It’s unscientific in that there are many variables at work here, including, for example, the distance away fans have to travel, and, in any case we are dealing with fairly small numbers of games.

One difficulty is that a scientific look at this phenomenon would require details of ticket allocations for away fans (and implicitly therefore home fans, given that stadium capacity is known) and the percentage of these which were sold.  Does anyone know a single source on the internet which gives these?  This would be an interesting topic for research as the outcomes would provide a basis for a scientific allocation of tickets for away fans.

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