Outside the Box: Conference calling as recession leaves empty pockets in crowd

With the Bank of England now forecasting the worst recession in modern history, attendance figures for the new Premier League season will be studied with interest.

Analysts already predict a further downturn after last season's slight dip. But since the level of interest in the sport shows no sign of abating, could it be that supporters no longer able to afford PL prices will simply transfer to a lower level, where the cost of admission is slightly less than one arm and one leg? Early figures for the Football League and the Blue Square Premier suggest that is the case. Average crowds of 12,694 for the Championship and Leagues One and Two were the highest for an opening weekend in those three tiers since the heady days of 1963. The Blue Square, which has never averaged as much as 2,000 over a season, is well above that mark so far thanks to crowds of 7,295 at Luton, 6,403 at Oxford and 4,488 at AFC Wimbledon, all clubs who should continue to be well supported this season.

Rolls' role needs filling

Talking of what many of us still think of as the Conference, it has been an extraordinary few weeks for Cambridge United, who would have been back in the Football League had they won the play-off final against Torquay in May. Instead, their manager Gary Brabin was sacked after a difference of opinion over the playing budget and replaced by the former Leyton Orient manager Martin Ling. He lasted just nine days and resigned because of "irreconcilable differences" with chairman George Rolls. Two days later it was Rolls who left, and last week Ling returned. He presumably agreed with Rolls' admission that "I got over-enthused in certain areas", but he may not have been as gratified to hear him add: "I'll be stronger next time when I'm back on the board."

A real midfield general

In the Blue Square South, Dorchester Town are claiming to have the youngest owners in the country, and a player-owner to boot. Tom and Josh Mitchell, aged 21 and 18, were made a present of the club by their father Eddie, who had to give up his majority shareholding after becoming chairman of Bournemouth. It might be considered a poisoned chalice. But a club spokesman says they are enjoying themselves, especially Tom, who plays for the first team in midfield.

Catfight in Cheshire

Listen out for a resounding clash of egos as Cheshire residents Alan Green and Robbie Savage make the short trip to Old Trafford to work together for BBC Radio 5 Live at Manchester United's game with Birmingham today. Neither is short of an opinion, and in an interview in these pages Savage, who is being reinvented as a media personality, said with "a mischievous grin": "What I want is to do a game with Alan Green." Whatever can he have meant?

s.tongue@independent.co.uk

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