Crowds set for record season

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The English game is on course to set attendance records in three of the country's four professional divisions this season if August's figures are maintained, writes Nick Harris.

This would not only see Premiership attendances rise above 12.5m for the first time, but see the Nationwide League smash its own record since the Premiership breakaway in 1992-93. Around 14.4m people are predicted to attend Nationwide League matches this season, or almost one million more than last season.

According to statistical forecasts prepared for The Independent, The Premiership's 20 clubs are predicted to sell 12.7m tickets this season, which would be more than 200,000 up on last season's record of 12.47m. Average crowds in August rose 1.9 per cent year-on-year from 31,953 to 32,545. Repeated through the season, average crowds will rise from 32,821 last year to 33,400 this year.

The First Division is heading for total crowds of over 8.4m, more than in any year since the Premiership breakaway and the highest for more than 40 years. The average attendance in August was 7.1 per cent up, to 14,967, and is on course to be 15,346 for the season.

The Second Division should see more than 3.7m attendances this year, which is up on last year but not as high as the 1998-99 season when Manchester City competed at that level. Gates in August were 8.3 per cent up on last season.

The biggest success story may be in the Third Division, which could see over 2.25m people attending matches this season, more than in any season since 1979-80. August average gates rose from 4,003 to 4,300.

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