Harrogate Town not panicked by drop in crowds

Harrogate Town managing director Garry Plant insists that the club are not panicked by falling attendances at home fixtures.

Thursday, 5th September 2019, 7:14 am
A crowd of 792 took in Harrogate Towns National League clash with Chorley on Tuesday evening. Picture: Matt Kirkham

A total of 900 people turned out for Saturday’s National League clash with Dover Athletic, less than half the number (1,865) who took in the corresponding fixture last season.

And on Tuesday evening, there were just 792 inside the CNG Stadium for the visit of Chorley, the second lowest crowd at a league game since Town’s promotion to English football’s fifth tier.

National League attendances only dropped below four figures once last season - a meeting with Bromley on a Tuesday night in early March - with the average gate for 2018/19 working out at 1,577.

“It’s not that we aren’t concerned, but we’re certainly not panicking at this stage,” Plant said.

“Of course we don’t want to see crowds falling, every football club needs fans coming through the gates, but there are a lot of factors to consider.

“It’s still early in the season and at this time of year a lot of people are still on holiday. Tuesday was also the first day back at school for the kids.

“This is now our second season in the National League and perhaps the novelty is wearing off. You’ve also got to remember that results have not been the best. People want to see the team winning games of football.”

A number of Town supporters have voiced their concerns regarding the effect that a rise in admission prices for the 2019/20 campaign is having on match-day turnout.

Some non-season ticket holders have suggested that the cost of pay-on-the-gate entry to matches has priced them out of attending as regularly as they did last term.

“It may well be part of the problem, but we haven’t lost this many supporters to an increase of £2 per head,” replied Plant when asked whether he believed that the hike in ticket prices could be linked to the lessening number of fans coming through the turnstiles.

“We’ve seen a dip in attendances since the second part of last season and we have looked at it internally.

“What I think we have to do is start winning more football matches and playing the same kind of football that we were producing at the start of last season.”

While acknowledging that the decline in attendance figures is a concern, Plant was keen to stress that he feels there is still much to be positive about.

“We don’t think negatively, we approach things with positivity. Look at where this club was five or six years ago. I don’t recognise the place,” he said.

“We have a stadium now, not just a football ground. You can watch the game from all four sides of Wetherby Road and remain dry.

“We are custodians of Harrogate Town and the question is ‘will we one day leave this club in a better position than it was in when we took over?’ The answer will undoubtedly be ‘yes’”.