The size of the Old Spotted Dog crowds continued to catch the eye in 2016-17 despite – or maybe even because of – the Clapton Ultras’ boycott which lasted almost a third of all home games.
In fact, the rise, fall, and rise again of the attendances provide an interesting subtext to a noteworthy season on the pitch for the Tons – and further consolidate the club’s position as one of the best supported at its level nationwide.
Clapton’s average home gate for 2016-17 was 276 in all competitions, with the league average 314, enough to rank in the top 10 for this level of football (Step 5) across the country.
This figure was dampened, though, by the seven-game streak during the winter when the home support’s walkout saw crowds drop to double digits – and included one game (the 1-1 draw with Takeley) where not a single paying supporter was declared.
This left Clapton with the remarkable record of registering both the highest and the (joint) lowest Essex Senior League (ESL) attendances of the season.
That high-point was the incredible 684 that watched the 7-0 demolition of Burnham Ramblers on the final day of Clapton’s season.
This, in turn, was just one more than the previous season’s best that attended the defeat to FC Romania in September.
Yet in between these twin peaks was the flatline brought about by the club’s unannounced price increase in mid-season.
Prior to the Sporting Bengal game, which saw adult and concessionary prices hiked by £1 out of the blue, the average attendance was 393.
For the following boycotted seven games (excluding the pay-what-you-like derby with Barking in January), which comprised 5 league games and 2 cup defeats, the total combined reported attendance was only 208 – an average of less than 30 per game.
Once the boycott was called off, though, crowds flocked back to the Scaffold, with the average gate for the remaining 6 home league games an even higher 403.
In fact, if the boycott games are removed from the equations, Clapton averaged 383 in the league in 2016/17 – enough to rank fourth highest in England’s Step 5, and higher than any other team outside the famously well-supported Northern League.
Clapton’s support continued to boost crowds on the road, as well, with 18 of their 21 ESL opponents’ highest gates coming when the Tons’ visited. These included 300+ gates at Barkingside and Tower Hamlets.
Season-by-season Clapton average attendances
2016/7 314 (383 for non-boycotted, 20 for boycotted)