Anyone who has caught a glimpse of Clapton’s paltry home crowds this season due to the fans’ boycott might be wondering how the fanbase is holding up.
Quick reminder: the boycott was called by fans’ group Real Clapton, and backed by Clapton Ultras, at the start of the season chiefly due to the club chief executive attempting to liquidate the charity running the Old Spotted Dog, putting our 130-year-old home in peril.
Five gruelling months later, the case has unfortunately still to be heard in the High Court, and therefore the boycott still stands.
But is the boycott holding firm or are attendances creeping up? Once people get out of the habit of going to home games, have they just drifted away from the club completely? We took a look at the stats.
At Old Spotted Dog games that have been boycotted by the Clapton Ultras and other fan groups, the average officially declared attendance is 48.
That figure almost entirely consists of away fans, officials, players’ friends and relatives as the Scaffold stand lies empty and forlorn week after week.
Even this low figure of 48 often appears exaggerated. Head counts of people inside the Old Spotted Dog is routinely much lower than the total declared by the club. (Clapton officials insist there is an automated counting device attached to the turnstiles and their figures are correct, despite head counts).
What’s more, analysing the stats week by week, there is no upward creep during the season.
The average attendance at unboycotted games last season was 383, In other words, the boycott has led to an 88% drop in attendances – even if you take this seasons’s fishy figures as accurate.
Such a powerful fan protest is unprecedented in the British game. 25% of Liverpool’s crowd walked out last season in the 77th minute over prices, something heralded as perhaps the most impressive fans’ protest in recent years. For Clapton fans to sustain a near total boycott for months is astonishing.
From boasting the biggest crowds in the ESL last season – nearly five times higher than the next highest club – Clapton are now in the bottom half of the attendance table, in 11th spot.
It’s clear from the above figures that home attendances have shrunk by phenomenal levels, but how about away games? Have fans just stopped going completely including away games?
The list of away attendances so far makes impressive reading…
- Hackney Wick 785 – season best
- Tower Hamlets 468 – season best
- Basildon United 281 – season best
- Barkingside 273 – season best
- FC Clacton (cup) 208 – season best
- London Lions (cup) 197 – season best / best in history
- Sporting Bengal 180 – season best
- Redbridge 160 – season best
- Takeley 145 – season best
- Ilford 103 – season best
- Hullbridge Sports 86 – season best
- Woodford Town 73 – season best
- FC Romania 68 – season best
That makes the average at Clapton away games a fairly substantial 233, though that fluctuates wildly depending on whether it’s Saturday or midweek and the accessibility of the ground on public transport.
It should be noted that we’ve only had four Saturday away league games this season with the other six being evening matches, which traditionally attract lower crowds.
The average attendance at Essex Senior League games not involving Clapton is 58. So it’s clear the Tons’ presence in the league is boosting attendances massively and giving clubs a much-needed payday.
There have also been three games where fans were banned, ostensibly over a fear of fines over use of ‘pyro’, despite fans’ assurances that none would be used.
Those games saw the following attendances…
- Southend Manor 41, 45
- Met Police 28 – season worst
An average of 35.
All three games have also featured large numbers of stewards employed to keep supporters out.
At a time when non-league clubs are desperate for funding, it’s crazy to see two spending good money keeping fans away, based on false or outdated information.