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By ESPN Staff
Nov 1, 2006

Premier League predict crowd level plateau

The Premier League have played down the significance of a perceived drop in attendances and are confident crowds will level out during the campaign as they did last season.

Only 27,229 watched Manchester United reclaim their place at the summit of the Premiership by defeating Bolton at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday, while Blackburn and Wigan are among the clubs to have cut prices recently to boost crowds.

There were disappointing crowds towards the start of last season but there was little talk of the problem at the end of the campaign, and the Premier League believe the same could happen over the next seven months.

'What we don't want to do is jump to conclusions,' said Premier League spokesman Dan Johnson. 'Attendances rise as the season goes on and when we finished last season we were at the same point as the year before.

'Clearly there are a number of local issues at the moment with some clubs and their average attendance, but they should not be criticised as they are looking at the issues.

'Our attendances since the start of the Premiership have gone up 65%, we're at a high level and have to work hard to maintain that level.'

Having eight teams in the north-west is seen as a contributing factor to clubs failing to sell-out for games, while it is also thought that the problem of illegal broadcasting has an impact on Saturday games.

Football Supporters' Association chairman Malcolm Clarke, however, has also highlighted a lack of atmosphere and expensive prices as issues which need to be addressed.

'Falling crowds is still a problem, in the Premiership in particular,' said Clarke.

'Prices have risen above inflation and the league is uncompetitive, we know before the season that most of the teams cannot win and are intent on survival.

'There are other factors too, such as moving kick-off times due to television, or being able to watch games in your house or at pubs where you are not told to sit down all the time.

'People are now more choosy on how they want to spend their money. For many of the games there isn't value - it was very interesting to see Bolton v Man United wasn't a sell-out. People are questioning whether it is worth the price.

'In other cases, there are lots of meaningless games.'

He added: 'Television revenue could be used to drive down ticket prices. Even distribution of income in the Premiership and the football triangle would help.'

Clarke would also like to see safe standing areas for fans, which he believes would create a better atmosphere.

He added: 'Germany hosted the World Cup and they have crowds standing for their domestic games, there's no reason why we couldn't do that.'