Burton Albion chairman Ben Robinson has been talking attendances and the effect last years relegation from the championship has had on crowd numbers at the Pirelli Stadium.
Speaking on Derbyshire Live, Robinson said that the Brewers two-season spell in the second tier of English football had given the club ‘more realistic expectations of the level of support we can get.’
In Burton’s first Championship campaign, 2016-17, their average gate was 5,228, a figure that dropped to 4,645 the following season, during which the Brewers went seven months without a home victory on their way to relegation.
However, with only three home games remaining this season, Albion’s average home attendance is 3,192.
Fleetwood Town and Accrington Stanley are the only clubs averaging smaller home gates in league one.
Albion’s attendances this season have been affected by smaller away followings after two years in a league in which big clubs like Leeds United, Derby County, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday were among the visitors.
For Saturday’s 5-2 win over Accrington Stanley, the east stand at the 7000 capacity Pirelli Stadium was not opened due to the relatively low numbers of away fans.
Robinson was disappointed at the level of the home support. He said. ‘Looking back at the Championship seasons, we were disappointed that we didn’t sell out, considering the big clubs that came, like Leeds United on Boxing Day.’
He added. ‘For this season, we set off with optimism about what our average attendances would be – and they have not materialised.’
Off the field, the Brewers undertake extensive work in the community through the Burton Albion Community Trust.
That is something the club is seeing a benefit from on match days, too, and Robinson hopes that will continue.
Despite their undoubted hard work in the community and meteoric rise since they achieved EFL status by winning the National League in 2009, the numbers of people coming through the turnstiles is a concern for Robinson who made it clear it was now having a consequence for the playing budget. He said. ‘That has been disappointing, and it has an impact on the budget, in terms of us being one of the lesser-supported clubs in League One.’
‘The picture that has come from our two seasons in the Championship has given us a clearer balance in terms of making us more realistic about expectations of the level of support we can get.’
In the Brewers previous season in League One in 2015-16, when they finished second to earn automatic promotion to the Championship, their average gate was 4,089.
Robinson has done a tremendous job at Burton since he took the role of chairman for the second time in 1995.
For a club there size to play in the Championship and do it at a sustainable level of finance is remarkable.
It is not the first time he has publically talked of being disappointed at the level of support the Brewers attract and he is clearly saying without more fans through the gate the budget will not be as competitive as it could be.
It is an unfortunate reality that clubs who have come up to the EFL through the pyramid without a traditional football league history tend not to kick on with attendances. Fleetwood, Crawley and Forest Green other good examples of successful clubs who struggle at the gate.
That is why a club like Stockport County can average 3,500 in National League North while Burton averages less than that in League One.