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How Big Can Aston Villa Get?

How big can we get?

I will be watching Aston Villa's attendances with interest over the coming season, I've no doubt they will increase and we may even see a few full-houses. But I was disappointed with the number that went to see the Newcastle game.

I don't think the Bank Holiday and train cancellations really had much to do with it. It got me thinking: just how big can the support for Villa become?

For me it boils down to statistics.

Birmingham is easily the second largest city in Britain with a population of nearly one million, and the West Midlands 2.3 million. Yet its biggest football team struggles to get 40000 through the turnstiles. This is even more remarkable if one considers that we are currently the only Premiership club for a hundred miles in any direction.

Glasgow, population less than 630,000, can service two huge teams with 50,000 fans. Against Reading Villa pulled in 37,000, respectable enough for a mid-week game, yet Manchester City, without having a great new manager to hail, and playing equally unglamorous opposition, also had over 37,000 that same evening. Man City are an interesting case since they are hugely supported, better than Villa I suspect (though I haven't done research on that) despite having one of the biggest football teams on the planet as neighbours and despite having quite a number of Premiership clubs within spitting distance of them. The population of Manchester is only 437,000, although Greater Manchester is comparable to the West Midlands it has Bolton, Blackburn and Championship clubs to divide that area. Newcastle is has a population of a mere 250,000 but can rely on 50,000 fervent supporters packing St James's Park.

What I am saying is that considering Villa's history, our population pool, our accessible geographical position, our pathetic rival clubs, the support of Aston Villa is lamentably poor. Even having Doug as chairman for so long doesn't quite explain it. On Tyneside they famously say that 30000 fans would turn out just to watch Shearer lace up his boots during training. Perhaps we are particularly demanding, perhaps we are fickle or perhaps we just aren't football crazy in the West Midlands like they are in the North East or North West, which is no bad thing after-all. There are other things in life. But with the transfer deadline a few days away, I just can't think of any at the moment.

Article by Saurat

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The Journalist

Writer: J P Fear Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday August 29 2006

Time: 12:50PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
we have been hit hard in the west midlands area with unemployment especially in manufacturing which may contribute to many fans not being able to afford to go to every home game.
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29/08/2006 13:00:00

I think that over the last 5 - 6 years we have not had a lot to shout about and we have had a few false dawns. People wont fall for 2 wins and a draw the good times are back they want to consistency i.e. Villa Park a fortress and when away expecting at least a draw against the likes of Tottenham, West Ham etc. It will take time and I think gradually the crowds will return. Remember when we were in the 3rd Division 40000+ to see Bournemouth. We will get there eventually.
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29/08/2006 13:10:00

A good post Saurat, and a good question. I'm not convinced by the deemz theory as unemployment has affected all the major cities, and Villa is still a relatively cheap ground to visit (partic. North Stand). I suspect it is a lot to do with motivation. I think Villa (and other clubs in the region, especially Wolves) will see crowds rocket once those fans who don't attend regularly now, see the promise of success. I don't think Villa are like Man C, Sunderland, Newcastle etc. where crowds stay big even when results and performances are poor. Why? I really don't know.
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29/08/2006 13:12:00

Out attendancies will flutter between 35k and 43k this season, with new signings, O'Neill at the helm, a billionaire Chairman and some good results, attendancies will rise. Our only worry is televised games, and I can't fault the fans for staying away, being a football supporter is an expensive hobbie. My season ticket was 450.
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29/08/2006 13:32:00

I think you really do have to take into account the "doug effect" just how many fans did he p**s **f so much that they vowed never to return in his reign, with the complete change of atmosphere at Villa (and what a change, a sea of smiling, cheering fans, the holte in fine voice, enough to bring a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat) things will change, it won't happen overnight, but the die hards will come back, and succesfull teams always attract the fair weather supporters whose money will be appreciated. How about an official invite from the holte enders to Randy, come and join us at the holte and really feel the atmosphere. UP THE VILLA
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29/08/2006 13:48:00

Good post Saurat. I believe that there are no excuses for the relatively low(but very noisy) turnout on Sunday. Infact there were 2000 less than for the same fixture last season. What I find particularly hard to phathom is where are all the fans who said they would not step foot in VP whilst Ellis and O'Leary were in charge??? However there are a few considerations to make. For 24 years Villa has been run as a corner shop by a certain Mr Ellis. What Villa fans have come to expect is for the club to keep spending money that it has not got. I am as anti Ellis as anybody but he did provide transfer money. His mistakes were giving it to the wrong managers, for the wrong reasons, for the wrong players. Where Villa needed investment was in the whole structure of the club. I work in media and it is excepted that the Villas media relations and marketing are the worst in the top two divisions. Fact. Since the start of the Premier League Villa have failed to capitalise on the boom in the game. For all of his many faults this was probably Ellis's biggest. It is now impossible to turn this corner shop into Harrods overnight. Years of neglect means that Villa (and all other clubs in the region) have forever lost potential fans to ManUre, Redscouse and more recently Chelski. We now have hope and a sense of ambition which has been missing for years, but it is obviously going to take time for this to be fully reflected in attendances. It is like changing the course of an oil tanker, it will happen eventually. Prices to watch the Villa are good, but as a marketing man I look on this as a negative. Because apathy after years of neglect had set in, the club thought the best way to increase attendances was to reduce prices. This is marketing suicide!! The low prices for kids are great and should be kept that way at all costs. However by reducing adult prices what the club has actually done is reduce the perceived value of the product. Imagine the Villa as a car. Do you want us to be a Ferrari or an Aston Martin? Or a Skoda or a Renault? We all want to drive the Ferrari at Skoda prices, but that 'ain't gonna happen As fans we can play our part. First and foremost buy a season ticket. There are fans who can't, we all understand that (work, family, finances etc). But we all know fans who could buy a season ticket but who choose not to. It is time for the pressure to come from within and for us to encourage these fans to put their hand in their pocket and back the club. We want the new owners to spend their money, should it not be expected that we do the same?? More importantly we have the most in demand manager in the game. It is obvious that his ambition is to compete at the top of the game. If we can not fill our ground to give him the backing he deserves why would he want to stay? I guarantee the people who would complain the most if he leaves are the exact same fans who said they would be back at VP as soon as Ellis and O'Leary left. Buy your season tickets. Secondly the matchday experience must improve. I hate to say it but Redscouse (did you see the Kop on Saturday pay tribute to its 100 years) and Arsenal (several times last season , although Highbury was probably the quietest ground in the league) are excellent at this. If the matchday atmosphere is good then an average game seems 10 times better and in turn you are more inclined to go to the next game. Wherever you sit encourage everybody to sing. VP in full voice is the best ground in the league. So if we could get the Witton Lane and Trinity Road to join the Holte End, this in turn would encourage more people to come more often. The new owners are business men. I know that if it was me and we couldn't fill our seats I would ensure that we were getting more money from those who do turn up (price rises). If we could fill our ground then I would put in place the developments and increase it to the proposed 52,000. To do this though would mean keeping prices at current levels. It is our choice. Fill the ground or get ready for price increases.
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29/08/2006 14:13:00

Villa have been starved of success since that unmentionable man came back in charge. As some of the above have stated, fans want to see a winning team, no matter which division we are in, not as there has been in the past a moderate team struggling against mediocre opposition and consistently loosing to the better teams. Now, I think, things can only get better.
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29/08/2006 14:30:00

This was sent to me by Michael Bakewell. On attendencies dont forget there were a few big nights around the country this weekend............surely this lot had some impact ??? Creamfields
Leeds festival
Reading festival
Nottinghill carnival
South West Four
Get Loaded in the Park
Cardiff Weekender
London Weekender
Also, after a few Google searches.........................
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said it estimated 1.7 million people would leave behind the current wet weather in Britain to seek sunnier climates abroad.
Eurostar and Eurotunnel trains are expected to be busy with over 140,000 tickets already booked. Up to 30million holidaymakers took to the roads over the weekend and many motorists faced lengthy delays on the journey home. Ultimately time will tell, but I think the Charlton at home attendance will be a pretty good indicator I think, by then we will have been starved of action for a few weeks with the international break and C/C tie. Plus I cant wait to see Petrov, who knows maybe Govou aswell and a few more !!!!
The Fear
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29/08/2006 14:36:00

I think its simple really, we are missing new signings. New signings give supporters hope and you want to go and see how good they are. Does anyone remember the atmosphere on Baros's home got everyone up for it. We cant be accused of not having a passion for football I think we proved that with our reception for Martin O'Neil. As for the Shearer reference he was englands captain, club record scorer and a local hero, we dont have a figure like that at our club (at the moment) - if we did we would go watch him train. Wait till our first batch of signings and the attendance will sell out - especially if its a big name player.
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29/08/2006 14:37:00

Thank you all for your thoughtful and perceptive comments. May I repeat what I said on the forum thread: I do think marketing is a big issue. Last spring I was in the Merry Hill shopping complex trying to buy my 4-yr old son a Villa shirt, but there wasn't a single Villa shirt to be seen anywhere. I realise this area isn't Villa heartland, my little nephew and all his friends down there are bluenoses, but it damn well should be Villa heartland! I think, I hope, I'm sure, Lerner will correct this because the lack of promotion of this great club has been one of the biggest disgraces of the Ellis era. One thing is for sure, the only way is up.
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29/08/2006 15:07:00

Whilst agreeing with most of the above, there is another factor here. How big can the club grow? Why only think in terms of attendances. I went to the US Soccer Coaches Convention in the US in January. Over there they are beginning to get interested in the Premiere League. Only Charlton, yes Charlton, were doing anything much to build a fan base there. Not even Glazier was in evidence. Now if Randy has seen that, and I'm sure he has, then don't exclude potential US fans too, watching through cable TV or even visiting on occasions too. Far fetched? I think not. He has the Cleveland Browns base already in place and with some effective promotion in the States Villa could become huge there and that could boost the club here too. Look also at the new board. One guy is the head of IG Sports. This company knows a thing or two about sports promotion. I don't think we have any idea what these guys have planned.
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29/08/2006 15:09:00

waiting two hours to get out of the carpark dosnt help along with the major road works on the motorway.dont get me wrong these are not the only reason why the gate was down but it is a contributory factor...wednesday night was also like a monsoon,sunday was a bank holiday weekend.average attendance so far is 36000.its still early days.
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29/08/2006 15:32:00

its early days boys and i think if aston martin gets us playing some attractive footy then people will start to come back.i would imagine shirt sales will increase at the same time so people who cant always get to games(myself living in N.Ireland) will be representing in our own way.
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29/08/2006 16:33:00

The fan base is there for sure, I'm sure we have one of the largest in the country. We have the whole of the west midlands to ourselves, but the club do not market very well outside of brum (thats if they do in brum). Getting people into villa park will take time but it wont take long if we carry on like this. Boro only got 25k last night, 35k+37k looks respectable now.
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29/08/2006 18:05:00

if we were challenging for the top 4 i think we would sell out home matches, anything less around 35k.
the flying villain
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29/08/2006 18:22:00

A lot of people didn't renew their season tickets, mainly due to DOL/HDE. I was one of them. Because of our rapid reversal of fortunes people will change their minds. But I would imagine most have already alloated their ST money to a holiday or towards something else.Its gonna take a lot of people a few weeks to raise the necessary.Personally I'll probably wait till Xmas & get a half one.
Willie Willie Anders
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29/08/2006 18:26:00

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29/08/2006 19:05:00

Facts(1) - average attendance over last 4 seasons for home games over August Bank Holiday Weekend = 33,263. Max. was in 2004 after finishing 6th previous season. Attendance 36,305 against Newcastle. Facts(2) - approx 5% of supporters that had tickets were not at match, for reasons stated by Jon Fear. So I estimate probably more than 37,000 tickets were actually sold. There should be a way for season ticket holders to pass on tickets to deserving cases when they can't attend. Perhaps Children's homes or Orphanages etc. Anyone any ideas? Facts(3) From a survey that I conducted a few months ago. Season Ticket Sales will exceed 30,000 when we are a Top4 Club competing in Europe every season. Stadium capacity for the top games will need to exceed 50,000. Average attendance will be 45,000-48,000. Randy will know this I'm sure.
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29/08/2006 20:18:00

please tell me its true " villa bid for Saviola" sky sports website. christ i don't think i can take much more of this!!
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29/08/2006 21:24:00

Tevez?!?!?! WOOHOO!!! I've been talking about him today in a pureley fantasy kind of way! If we get him it wold be unbelievable!
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29/08/2006 22:16:00

Saviola, Tevez, Petrov would be some nice moving in presents from Randy! I think VP might start to fill up if these become reality. We'd might as well get Mascharano the Argentinian holding midifielder aswell. I think we need a left back and central defender aswell and job done CL here we come.
MON the Man
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29/08/2006 22:26:00

It's like champ manager when you cheat and give yourself loads of cash!!!!!!!!!!!!
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29/08/2006 22:56:00

surat i agree with most of what you have said. however i strongly disagree with what you have said about the merry hill complex centre. I attend a 6th form in the area and there is only two bluenoses who admit they support the blues , however there must be at least 50 % of the 6th form support the villa with probably 50 people including me who have purchased season tickets. I also noticed that there are a lot more villa shirts being sold and more people wearing them recently (i work in a sports shop in the merry hill complex), we have more blues tops then villa , that says something. I think if you look round villa park there are many different cultures , espcially young asians and i think villa should try and target these as many of them do not turn up to home games.
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29/08/2006 23:01:00

1. It's a complete myth that teams like Newcastle ans Sunderland have enormous crowds even when they are not in the top division. How many were at the Stadium if Sh*te on Monday night? 24,000. Same when Newcastle were out of the top division. St James' Park was half empty (and that was before it was expanded). 2. What's wrong with Renaults? 3. We will have an average attendance of 40,000+ this season, no worries. For heaven's sake we had an average of well over 30,000 last season when we were playing rubbish.
chocolate teapot
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30/08/2006 08:20:00

Interesting thought about passing on season tickets. As I live in N Wales I don't get one because there is no value for the games I can get to. But, if I knew I could pass it to a someone who would use it well when I can't make it, I would think again. I used to give it to a friends child but he bought his own! Come on Jonathan, have a word with Randy and get a swop shop set up!
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30/08/2006 08:24:00

Barca are confirming we have put in a bid for saviola, but theres no other details of any significance. another rumour is regarding defoe.
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30/08/2006 09:55:00

if thats true a big thumbs up to the ambition of Aston Martin. If we get him (saviola) or players like him I think we start to send out a signal....VILLA ARE BACK.
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30/08/2006 10:01:00

Chocolate teapot ...... you ask what is wrong with Renaults? Where do want me to start? French! Plastic! Unreliable! French! Va Va Voom??? Tacky! French!!!................... Willy Willy Anders. I understand the points you are making but I hope the club do not make the same effort as you. If Randy or M'ON were to say we might wait until Christmas and then probably put a bit of effort in, we would be critisizing them............. Saurat. If your family and friends are B-lose fans then it might be time to consider a new family and friends. :o)............. Danvilla2. I do not think that Villasborough are any yardstick. If we are going to compare ourselves to other clubs I am sure we have higher aspirations than that?? Lets not look at Villasboroughs 24000. Lets compare Newcastles 52000 against Wigan, ManUre 75000 and the Arse 60000.............. Leelindsay. 450 for your season ticket. Absolute bargain when compared to most teams in the Premier League. Are you complaining? According to the Shareholder information pack the average supporter generated 14 each through the turnstile last season. This obviously takes into account kids season tickets and Villa Value matches at 7 per game. I for one think that football is overpriced (due mainly to players demands) but in comparison to most other clubs in the league, 450 is an absolute bargain. I must reiterate what I have said before. If we can not fill our ground then it is obvious that the club will endeavour to get more money from those who do attend............... The Fear. I expected a bit more from your good self. Despite all the reasons for the lower than expected crowds I did not expect to hear you make excuses. 35000 against Newcastle is poor whatever the circumstances. 4000 of that crowd were Newcastle supporters meaning that just 31000 Villa fans turned up. Everything is about season tickets. We just do not have enough people prepared to put their hand in their pocket. We need to get to a situation of 30000+ season ticket holders asap. This in turn will mean that supporters who pay on the day will have to start getting their tickets earlier or face the prospect of not getting one at all. The next logical step is that these fans then become season ticket holders and they in turn encourage more people to come. It is not rocket science. You have been of great influence over the last few years and for that I congratulate you. How about now directing your influence in to increasing the number of season ticket holders (I ask that kindly and not in any way facitiously)? I have suggested a scheme to the club and wonder what your views are on this. Using the games against Bolton (16th December ) and ManUre (23rd December) the club should implement an incentive scheme. Using a 30 ticket as the level, the price for the ManUre should rise to 45. However if you purchase tickets for both of these games you get them for 55 (a saving of 5). What this does is encourage supporters to attend a less attractive game. It means we maximise the revenue from those who only come once a year (many of whom are ManUre fans). You can charge away fans the same price (even more money for the club). If you purchase the Bolton ticket on its own you just pay the regular price of 30. This idea could be extended to games against Redscouse and Chelski. What do you think?....... UTV
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30/08/2006 10:15:00

We can offer a million and one reasons and/or excuses as to why the attendance against Newcastle United was so poor, but in truth do any of them really wash? We should have pulled in 40,000 plus minimum. Those fans who didn't attend should really look at themselves, and question how much of a supporter they really are. If they cant get their rears down Villa Park now, with all the change and excitement going on, then we are definitely going to struggle to pull in 40,000 plus on too many occasions this season.
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30/08/2006 21:11:00

Celtic have 60,000 every 2nd Saturday because they are a way of life not just a football team. Villa's attendances are a disgrace - even if you are playing poor football, turn out and change it! MON demands loyalty to the cause, so you lot had better respect that and fill Villa Park. Otherwise Stan will be wondering what was the point.
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30/08/2006 22:49:00

Malcy it was not so long ago that Celtic were struggling to get 20,000 a game, so unless you are going to come on here and talk sense you may be better off going elsewhere.
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31/08/2006 09:33:00

Not sure i have missed this in other people comments or not but for me one thing that is glaring out in relation to the attendance debate is that for a good few years now we have not had a player who sets the heart racing with his skill , speed, passing , i took my little nephew down to Villa hoping to get him converted at an early age since taking him he has professed to supporting liverpool because of Gerrard and England because of Beckham , i also think about when i was growing up and players who we could quite easily say with conviction were amongst the best in the country gary shaw, love him or hate him steve hodge, david platt, paul mcgrath, dwight yorke, players who made headlines and who whether good or bad news kept the profile of the club high, i would profess to being a staunh villa fan and who loves my club dearly but i can honestly say that since dwight yorke left there hasnt really been one name on our team sheet that would single handedly bring me through the turnstiles i admit that in davis, moore and the angel gabriel for the 1st time in a long time we have highly marketable players this is who kids relate to they wana be like their heroes and if we could get one massive star name whether bought or developed then im sure this would ensure not only kids wanting to support us because of it but a higher profile
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31/08/2006 15:18:00

We'll be European Champions within 10 years, 10 long years......
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01/09/2006 00:30:00


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