Football: Wimbledon fans lead new-found affluence: Surprises in supporters survey

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The Independent Online
THE traditional view of football fans and their attitudes my need revision if the first extensive survey of supporters is to be believed.

The idea that Premier League matches predominantly attract young, poorly paid or unemployed males is as old hat as football rattles, it seems.

Analysis of more than 10,000 responses to questionnaires designed by John Williams of the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research and placed in match programmes indicate that one in eight of spectators at the highest club level are female. More than half of all supporters are over 30 and married, and three-quarters of respondents were in paid employment, nearly a third with income above pounds 20,000 a year. All clubs have at least some affluent followers, but London clubs have more than their share. Perhaps surprisingly Wimbledon fans rated the richest.

The survey is the largest to be conducted on a general basis. Most studies in the past have centred on specific clubs or specific issues, like racism, which more than three-quarters of respondents thought was declining.

The intention is to use the figures mostly as a benchmark for judging future changes in spectator profiles, but the Premier League will be heartened to discover the image of the average crowd fell in line with their presentation of the game as a family event. Not only was the figure for female fans higher than expected, but more than half of supporters with school age children take them to matches.

Most clubs still attract about two-thirds of their support from people born locally or living nearby, but the number of spectators travelling for an hour or more to home games is increasing. The bigger clubs, notably Liverpool and Leeds, have more long distance fans, but Blackburn, newly restored to the top flight, have the highest proportion of local supporters at over 80 per cent.

While more than 60 per cent described facilities at their club as excellent or good, there were familiar areas of dissatisfaction, like ticket prices, toilets and refreshments.

Wolves are sending Steve Bull for a scan in the hope of a more precise diagnosis on the hamstring problem that forced the striker out of the club's game against Reading on Saturday after only 12 minutes.