A Boring Blog About Boring People With Boring Attendances Obsessions

Michael Regan

Warning: This blog is boring. I almost sent myself to sleep even writing it. But talking about boring people talking about their boring obsessions should be boring. Boring.

It's not really something that I like to think about too much, but I've spent over a quarter of a century supporting and loving Sunderland AFC. That's a lot of years.

Enough years, certainly, to see us play third tier football. Enough years to have held season tickets and shed tears at two different footballing homes. Enough years to distinctly remember a time when the Premier League didn't even exist. So much has changed.

So it should come as no big surprise that, when I look back, I can never actually remember ever talking about - or being even remotely bothered by - attendances. They used to be just a number at the end of a report in the paper.

In our case it was never really a big number, but that was quite normal for the age. The hooligan days of the 70s and 80s had left many fans disillusioned with the poor treatment they risked receiving in dilapidated old stadia, and I use the word 'stadia' in the loosest possible sense. They were just concrete steps with a roof that happened to surround a field, really.

Nowadays though, it seems you can't do anything without someone trying to make an attendance figure a stick with which to beat your club. BT Sport were very quick to criticise Sunderland fans for the 16,777 gate in the FA Cup against Southampton. Some Newspapers were also making it headline news on their websites.

I mean, seriously, who actually cares? May be I'm a product of a different age and moulded by the fact that, back when I started to really relish supporting Sunderland, a similar sized crowd was pretty much par for the course.

Neither can I remember, by the way, there being a big drama and many headlines when Copa Italia finalists Fiorentina won their round of 16 game against Chievo last month in front of 7,949 fans, and nor have I seen AC Milan's 15,584 cup attendance the following week really mentioned.

In the Copa Italia round of 16 in 2012, neither Inter and AC Milan combined or Lazio and Roma combined could better Sunderland's FA Cup gate against Southampton. No one cares though, and rightly so.

But even if they did care - even if it was as massively important as some would apparently love us to believe - it doesn't take an economics professor to figure out why Sunderland's gate was comparatively small this weekend.

For a start, the FA Cup fifth round tie was Sunderland's eighth home game since the turn of the year. You know, that thing that comes directly after that cripplingly expensive 'Christmas' thing. There is also the small fact that in the last two weeks the core of the club's support has spent hundreds on arrangements for Wembley. I've already spent £200 on that and am lucky enough to have free accommodation to use.

There was also no Metro service available, complicating the process of getting to and from the ground, and when you add up the recent costs, the weather, the faff in getting to the game and the fact it was a televised early kick-off (making BT's criticism even more ludicrous), it really isn't difficult to connect the dots. And who actually cares anyway because cup attendances are always a low priority for a financially struggling area like Wearside.

But no, apparently the application of logic and reason has no place in the endless attendances bore. See a number, condemn a number. That's the process.

Whilst we are on that subject, I especially liked BT Sport's Jake Humphrey's tweet criticising the attendance by saying ticket prices were "only £15". Cheers Jake. Sure fifteen notes is nowt to you, but we don't all get paid tens of thousands to talk complete rubbish on a poor excuse for a sports channel. I personally think that £15 is an appreciated reduction on the norm, but hardly some kind of irresistible offer. The way the BT berk was going on you'd think there was an open bar and free Thai massage involved or something.

Of course, you never see headlines in all this crediting Sunderland being the seventh best supported Premier League club this season despite years generations of dour struggle, do you? I don't remember the headlines praising the 45,426 gate against Manchester United back in October after fans had endured their side being rooted to the bottom of the table having seen just two wins in nine months. I must have missed them.

I tend to avoid all debate on attendances for this very reason really. It's a boring obsession of boring people with boring agendas and always - always - a one-way street. There is a lot more to a football club than a number, and whatever that number is at any given time I'm immensely proud of the one we support.

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