Sam Wallace: Top-flight clubs enjoy a golden age as fans can't kick the habit

We are told that this is the golden age for English football. An era which fans of the future will look back upon with a misty-eyed nostalgia. They will remember with fondness those innocent days when players earned a mere £90,000 a week and only one house in every street had high-definition television. Blimey, they'll be saying in 2107, back in 2007 they even played all the Premier League games in England.

The Independent's revelation that aggregate stadium attendances this season are on course to be higher than any one season since 1951 is all the evidence the powers at the Premier League need to say the game is in rude health. Try to imagine the leisure options for a Saturday afternoon in 1951. They probably boiled down to something like this: a) go to a football match or b) smoke a pipe. Or c) smoke a pipe at a football match. Which, curiously, will now get you ejected from a stadium.

So it is extraordinary to think that the interest in football back in 1951 – a time when not even the Prime Minister Clement Atlee had the convenience of goal alerts texted to his mobile phone – were just as big as they are now. It is also reassuring to know that modern football captures the imagination of people today in the same way it did those 1950s crowds. But these figures can also invite a worrying complacency for Premier League clubs considering exporting fixtures to places like America or Dubai.

The success, the clubs would say, is down to the brilliant football on offer and their own innovative ticketing policies. A completely unscientific poll carried out of a few Premier League clubs yesterday revealed the following examples of cheap ticket prices. Newcastle United are offering a £25 half-season ticket to primary school-age children. Blackburn Rovers are letting under 15s in for £7. That is £2 less than it will cost your average Blackburn schoolkid to watch the dubiously titled "World Superstars of American wrestling" at the town's King George's Hall.

Arsenal claim to have an extraordinary 180,000 members. Remarkably the club also say that they have a waiting list for season tickets of more than 40,000. If you apply now, by the time you actually get to see a game at the Emirates, Theo Walcott will be 41-years-old and on TalkSport complaining that modern day players have it easy.

If football is booming, therefore, why is it that so many supporters you encounter are so unhappy at their lot? There has never been a greater division between some fans and the people who run their clubs: from the Love United, Hate Glazer brigade at Manchester United to the fans on the Kop at Anfield calling for Liverpool's co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks to resign. It is a wonder that some of them turn up at all.

To listen to the chants and read the banners at English football matches you might believe that the fans in this country are among the most intensely politicised and disputatious of any in the world. Certainly militant fans' groups are remorseless when it comes to scrutinising club's financial accounts and potential takeovers and they continually attack the rampant commercialisation of the Premier League. And yet, despite all the fury, the supporters just keep on coming every week – to the likes of Pride Park as well as Old Trafford.

While pressure on clubs and the people who run them is to be welcomed – within reason – it is evident from watching English football that those who call for revolution are in the minority. On the whole, the majority of fans who watch games are apolitical. They come out of habit and because they enjoy it and because the modern day leisure options on a Saturday afternoon are hardly much better than 57 years ago. Ninety minutes watching Cristiano Ronaldo or 90 minutes traipsing around Ikea?

It is not some modern-day marketing genius that keeps the fans coming, in fact the principles of football's boom are pretty simple. Basically they involve safe, clean stadiums, decent football and prices just about within the grasp of ordinary people. You did not have to be a business guru to see that the fetid state of football in the 1980s was unsustainable, or that a buoyant economy would allow people to pay higher prices for tickets.

But before the Premier League suits spark up the cigars they should be warned that this bubble can burst. Fans did not come back to football grounds in the 1990s on the off-chance that they could be on Sky Sports or because they wanted to help Sir Dave Richards, the Premier League chairman, get his knighthood. If fixtures are moved abroad, if the England team is allowed to rot and if people like Richards try to take away the power of the Football Association then the wheels really could come off.

Numbers game: Who's on the up (and who isn't) this season

Figures show current average attendance for each club and percentage difference on same period last season

Aston Villa 39,901/Up 12%

Manchester City 42,209/Up 9%

Blackburn Rovers 23,172/Up 8%

Fulham 22,952/Up 7%

Wigan Athletic 18,515/Up 3%

Newcastle Utd 50,985/Up 2%

Tottenham 35,878/Up 1%

Portsmouth 19,894/Up 1%

Man Utd 75,612/Same (virtually full)

Arsenal 60,053/Same (virtually full)

Chelsea 41,660/Same (99% capacity)

West Ham Utd 34,582/Same (97%)

Liverpool 43,554/Same (96%)

Everton 37,063/Same (91.7%)

Reading 23,465/Down 2%

Middlesbrough 27,023/Down 4%

Bolton Wanderers 20,062/Down 13%

Sunderland 42,695/Up 51%

Derby County 32,136/Up 35%

Birmingham City 26,153/Up 25%

* Three promoted clubs listed at bottom of table as promotion naturally brings bigger crowds

**Same = plus or minus 1%

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments