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
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice