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August 3, 2011

English Football League Two – attendance map and data for clubs in the 2011-12 League Two season.

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League Two Attendance Map

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[Note: to see my latest map-&-post of 4th division English football, click on the following, category: Eng-4th level/League Two.]

I introduced this type of map and chart last year, but last season I only covered the top 2 divisions in England in this fashion. This post covers the English Football League Two, which is the lowest level in the Football League and is the 4th Level in the English football pyramid. At each season’s end, two clubs gain promotion into this level from the 5th Level (for this season, Crawley Town and AFC Wimbledon) and two clubs are relegated out of League Two to Non-League Football and the Conference National (those 2 clubs were Lincoln City and Stockport County). Meanwhile, four clubs gain promotion from this level to League One, that is, from the 4th Level to the 3rd Level (those 4 clubs were Chesterfield, Bury, Wycombe Wanderers, and Stevenage). Finally, 4 clubs are relegated from League One to this level (those 4 clubs were Bristol Rovers, Dagenham & Redbridge, Plymouth Argyle, and Swindon Town).

The map shows the locations of the clubs in the 2011-12 season of League Two. Flanking the map are club crests, with the crests sized to reflect 2010-11 average attendance (home league matches). The larger the average attendance, the larger the club’s crest. So, down at this level, most of the club crests are going to be pretty small. In case you are wondering why Bradford City has such relatively high attendance figures for this level, that is because Bradford City instituted a cut-rate ticket scheme 3 seasons ago, and their gates shot up well past the 10,000-per game mark. Even though this pricing scheme has been largely phased out, the crowd-sizes have not diminished that much there in West Yorkshire, despite the Bantams’ lackluster form of late (they finished in 18th place last season)

Percent-Capacity in the lower leagues
This is the first time I have listed percent-capacity statistics for the lower Leagues. On the chart, the far right column shows each League Two club’s percent-capacity figure from last season [ Percent-capacity is found this way...Average Attendance divided by Stadium Capacity = Percent-Capacity ].

Percent-capacity figures for most League Two clubs are usually at or below 50%-capacity. And where a 70-80 percent-capacity number would be a healthy figure for a League Championship club {see this post from August 2010}, and there are 10 clubs in the 10/11 Championship that are in the 70 to 80%+ category; and a where a 60-70 percent-capacity is a very healthy figure for a League One club, and there are 5 clubs in the 10/11 League One that are in the 60 to 70% category, the problem is that getting a percent-capacity figure above 70% or so when you are a fourth-division-club means the club has stadium issues. Namely, that the club won’t have room for growth, in terms of fan base size, if they are promoted – without a costly stadium expansion. And revenue is being lost, because such a high percent-capacity for a small stadium means that inevitably there will be sold-out matches, so average attendance begins to plateau. That is the problem AFC Wimbledon will face if they are able to consolidate their new-found status as a Football League club. A little-noted fact about AFC Wimbledon is that they had a drop-off of minus-2.8% in attendance last season. [The lack of an extra sell-out date because Oxford City was no longer in the Conference in 2010-11 certainly contributed to the fact that Wimbledon's average gate was below the previous seasons'.] Wimbledon drew 3,435 per game last season in the Conference at their Kingsmeadow ground, in southwest London near Surrey. Kingsmeadow only has a capacity of 4,772. So AFC Wimbledon had a 72.8%-capacity last season, which is the highest figure of all clubs in the 11/12 League Two (or the 11/12 League One, for that matter). The club would certainly have had a larger average attendance if their stadium was larger, because those sell-outs last season versus, say, Luton Town, would have drawn well over 5,000 [probably even 7,000] had the ground been larger. So Wimbledon faces the situation where they will be losing revenue because of inadequate stadium capacity. There is an expansion planned at Kingsmeadow in the near future, but AFC Wimbledon’s specific plans are still vague.

Second-best percent-capacity from last season of 2011-12 League Two clubs was by a club that actually was in a relegation battle last season – Northampton Town, who finished in 16th. The Cobblers’ decent 4,605 per game average attendance last season was boosted by a low-price youth ticket scheme the club had introduced last summer, plus by larger crowds attending some of the late-season relegation-battles at the Sixfields Stadium (capacity 7,653). Northampton had a 60.2%-capacity figure last season. Here is an article from NTFC.co.uk, about their good gate figures, ‘Sixfields Attendance On The Increase‘.

There are 3 other clubs in League Two this season that had percent-capacity figures near 60% last season…
Shrewsbury Town, at 59.5%-capacity. The Shropshire club, in yet another failed-promotion-run last season, have been drawing well since their New Meadow ground opened in 2007. STFC drew 5,876 per game last season in the 9,875-capacity ground.
Oxford United at 58.2%-capacity. Oxford United finished in 12th place in their first season back in the League, drawing 7,277 per game at their 12,500-capacity Kassam Stadium. That was second-highest in League Two last season.
The just-relegated Swindon Town, at 57.5%-capacity. This after a 2009-10 season that saw Swindon come agonizingly close to winning promotion the the League Championship, losing to Millwall 1-0 in the 2009-10 League One play-off final at Wembley. Last season, Swindon Town, helped by 9K and plus-10K gates at matches early on in the season, actually had a slight 0.8% increase in a season which ended up seeing them relegated. Swindon Town had an average attendance of 8,450 per game in their 14,700-capacity County Ground.

Odds for promotion
Not coincidentally, the three clubs with the highest wage bill in League Two this season are also the three highest-rated clubs to win promotion (by the bookmakers, at least). Those 3 clubs are Crawley town, Swindon Town, and Bristol Rovers.
From Statto.com, English League Two Promotion Odds.
Topping the list is actually Crawley Town, despite the West Sussex club having just been promoted from Non-League football for the first time. This is thanks to Crawley Town’s shadowy and deep-pocketed Far East investors. Last season, Crawley Town spent more on player transfers than any other club in their league or the division above them (ie, this division), and such lavish outlay for these levels continues at Crawley. Swindon Town is second-favorite for promotion, while Bristol Rovers, Oxford United, and Shrewsbury Town round out the top five best odds for promotion.
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Thanks to E-F-S site, for attendance figures.
Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘2011-12 Football League Two‘.

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