Success will not fill empty seats, says fans' federation

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Malcolm Clarke, the Federation's chairman, argued that the reasons behind falling attendances run deeper than just a loss of the "feel-good factor" this season.

The number of empty seats across Premiership grounds since the new domestic and European campaigns kicked off this season has raised concerns, from fans groups to players and managers alike as well as the sport's governing bodies.

With Sven Goran Eriksson's England team having secured their place for the finals in Germany, attention will once again focus on matters closer to home when the Premiership resumes this weekend.

And Clarke feels that the success of the national team will have little impact on improving gates.

"It might make a minimal difference, but the kind of reasons which saw people reacting against the Premiership will not have been influenced much by World Cup qualification," Clarke said. "The problems at the top of the game are more fundamental than that. There may be a small number of people who are enthused again, but I rather doubt it will make a great difference."

Clarke added: "It is not as if the England players have been producing the performances in those last international games which have been so exciting it makes people want to go and watch them.

"In terms of individuals, there is probably only Wayne Rooney who is the type of player which makes you think 'Yeah, I want to get in there and see this guy live'. It is very difficult to think of any others who have that 'turn-on' factor." England's qualification was greeted with something of a lukewarm reception after a 1-0 victory over Austria at the weekend - coupled with Netherlands' victory against the Czech Republic in Prague - ensured one of the best-runners up spots, whatever the result against Poland at Old Trafford last night. Clarke was not surprised, given the lacklustre way Eriksson's team have performed this season.

"There would have been a lot better reaction if the manner of qualification gave us all optimism for next year," he said. "The reason it has been a bit mixed is because people thought the performances have been rather average.

"People feel that if we are seriously going to have any aspirations for winning the thing, then qualification should not have been too difficult, but we seem to have made relatively heavy weather of getting ourselves over the line."

Despite the lack of enthusiasm to date, there are bound to be thousands of England fans who will make the trip to Germany next summer, spending a great deal of hard-earned money following the dream of World Cup glory.

Clarke reflected: "Even if England had not got there, quite a lot of people had already booked various packages to go over to Germany. Most people will now be waiting see who we draw and where we are playing, and then take it from there."