By Brian Sears
27 January 2014
One in five regular home fans stayed away from third-round FA Cup games but the weekend’s fourth-round games saw a marked rise in interest.
Taking the total average league gates of all the home side into account, the third-round Cup matches were 19.1 per cent down on league games, or to put it another way, 574,730 fans paid to see Cup games when normally, for league games, you would expect 710,732.
But by the Cup’s fourth round, only one in 16 fans were staying away – across the competition as a whole, with 326,823 people paying for fourth-round games against the 348,770 you’d expect if they had been league matches. This is just 6.3 per cent down.
The details will follow, but the good news for the Cup is that it’s gaining popularity, or rather being less unpopular . And with two massive all-Premier League ties among the fifth-round fare as Arsenal host Liverpool and Manchester City host Chelsea, decent crowds are to be expected.
There is a potential spanner in the works, however, with Arsenal potentially charging up to £93 for Liverpool fans. This would equate to the highest away price any English fan has paid for an ordinary away ticket in the English game, and both sets of supporters are fighting against this. (See here for details). It should be stressed that Arsenal have not yet finalised prices, and may yet not charge as much as £93. But even the prospect is doing the image of the game and the Cup no good.
Third-round gates and especially the replay gates show why it needs all the help it can get. Without further ado, here are the details:
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As our figures show, eight ties bucked the downward trend with Macclesfield fans leading the way for their game with Sheffield Wednesday, who themselves would have contributed to the three-fold increase on that normal home gate.
For the second season running, Charlton fans deserted the third round to the greatest extent – two in every three failing to turn up. At least their team turned up for them eventually earning a fourth-round tie at Huddersfield.
The third-round replays did not include a single game where the gate was as high as the normal home average league gate. Even the prospect of tons of goals did not persuade Manchester City fans to fill their stadium. Full houses are routine for them in the Premier League but they don’t have enough supporters wanting to pack the ‘lesser’ events. Almost two in five regulars stayed away across these replays.
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In the fourth round, Sheffield Wednesday were again a tremendous draw; having encouraged four times the usual gate at Macclesfield they upped it threefold at Rochdale.
Again the high-flying clubs of the Premier League held up so well. Sunderland and Cup holders Wigan had the poorest fourth-round gates relative to their usual support. Obviously the heady days of May have passed. But still six ties had gates higher than their league crowds, and Arsenal, City, Chelsea and Sheffield United were not far off the sizable numbers who watch them each week in the league.