Last Thursday, the ALS twitter account put out a poll, asking people whether the impact of Covid would result in match day attendances increasing or decreasing when fans are allowed to go back.
This means a return to full capacities. Just over 50% of the nearly 2000 people who voted in the poll thought that attendances would increase. Off the back of positive results and good takeover news it’s no surprise that the majority of voters thought that match day numbers would increase, and it would have been interesting to see what the results of said poll would have been if the poll has been conducted a week prior, just after a draw to MK Dons and a loss at Shrewsbury. The final option in the poll, ‘depends on performances’, was the second most popular result, getting 22.7% of the overall vote. This option clearly represents those who think that, ultimately, the success and momentum of the club will, as in normal times, dictate the size of crowds.
Whilst this will sound like a huge cop-out, I believe that it is nigh-on impossible to know how the pandemic will impact football attendances in general. There is the obvious argument that people who maybe haven’t been to the match in a while prior to the initial lockdown will come streaming back, and due to the year of immense boredom those people will want to join in with a big, communal atmosphere after having missed any sort of group activity for so long.
Others might suggest that there will be people who have long since found other things to do on a Saturday (during the tier system anyway) and that these people will make the most of restaurants, cinemas, theatres etc being open instead of going to the match, others may be hesitant and concerned about mixing because of the millions of deaths due to Covid.
The failure and disappointment of the past five (or even longer) years has resulted in an eventual apathy that has meant some fans have found it easier to let go of the match than others. This, though, does come under the ‘depends on the performances’ option talked about in the poll previously. A good start to the season in the Championship with an entirely new squad, with the momentum of a promotion behind us will clearly result in a different atmosphere and feel around the club then if we were to start poorly whilst still in League One. These two options are essentially based on the worst and best-case scenarios, in terms of what the team is able to do between now and next August/September.
The key question (if fans are let in) is; even if we have a poor start in League One next season, will the general boost of life improving means that people will take the opportunity to go to the match more than if there was no pandemic?
However, it pans out, I, for one, can’t wait to get back in the Stadium of Light and hear the roar when the ball hit the back of the net…