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How Big Can Aston Villa Get?

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

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:J P Fear
Date:Tuesday August 29 2006
Time: 12:50PM


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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
29/08/2006 15:07:00
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