Toon Fans Priced Out Of St James' Park?

It must be a worry to many at the club, but Blackburn Rovers chief executive John Williams says he has the answer. "Premiership clubs must use increased television revenues to cut their ticket prices in a bid to curb falling attendances", says Williams.

The Premier League last week announced a £625million overseas rights deal which will boost the average TV income for top-flight clubs to £40million per year.

Williams claims Rovers are one of many clubs who have frequently struggled to attract crowds anywhere near the capacity of their ground in recent years and Williams believes it is time to act to save the game as a spectator sport.

Williams: "Our view is that some of this new money must be returned to our supporters in admission prices.

"Most clubs, apart from the biggest, have a problem with crowds and it is crucial that the game remains a live spectacle."

Williams added: "The Premier League is becoming increasingly predictable.

"While it is good we still have a title race, most people can name at the beginning of the season who the top four clubs will be.

"Although we have to remain as competitive as we can, we are committing to returning. Some of the increase in TV money to our supporters from next season."


Martin O'Neill (as we reported last week), says the same. The fans are being priced out of the sport.

Villa's home gates have hovered around the 30,000 mark for most of the season and the ground has been barely two thirds full.

O'Neill: "We know like anyone else that we have to go and play well and win some games and then people will come.

"I am very grateful for everyone who comes through the gate. But we have work to do and not once has the chairman talked about an attendance being lower than he expected.

"We know the fans want to be supporting a winning side.

"You can see that we still have a lot of work to do in terms of impressing those people who are thinking they have seen it all before and that this is a false dawn. We still have to convince an extra 10,000 or 12,000 people to come to some of the games.

"People find reasons for not coming to the games anyway - maybe because it is expensive, maybe because the product is not good enough, whatever. If the product isn't good enough, they will stay away. It is up to us to improve the football to such an extent that we are winning - and doing that with a bit of panache."

Villa are trying to attract fans for the Watford game with a scheme which allows season ticket holders to 'bring a friend for a fiver.'

He isn't the only manager showing concern at dropping attendances. Bolton manager Sam Allardyce has criticised the club's fans for not packing out the Reebok Stadium. And considering Newcastle had a 15,000 waiting list for season tickets during the Kevin Keegan reign, and now cannot sell all their season tickets ... there is a drop of 17-18,000. Only 26,000 turned out for the FA Cup tie on Wednesday.

Bolton are currently fifth in the Premiership and challenging Arsenal and Liverpool for Champions League places, but the Wanderers boss would like to see more people coming through the turnstiles.

Bolton's average league attendance this season is just over 23,000 - nearly 5,500 below capacity for their small ground. The club are laying on free travel for fans for next weekend's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Arsenal.

Allardyce: "It is very good (the free travel offer) but I would sooner the fans turn up here and fill the Reebok Stadium.

"It is great to have the support when we go away from home but there is one underlying factor if you want to get into Europe and that is that the fans play a massive part with the atmosphere they create at the Reebok Stadium.

"Without that atmosphere, as we experienced against Manchester City last week, the players find it difficult to reach the top end of their game.

"We need them to turn up at home. They are great away from home as the hardcore will always look to travel away and give their support to the team and we have repaid them with some fantastic away performances.

"It (free travel) is a great gesture but for me it is about filling the Reebok and not filling the opposition's ground with our fans."