Attendance at Tipperary County Championship games is becoming a concern and this is especially relevant to gate receipts which used to form almost one third to one half of our annual revenue, County Secretary Tim Floyd says in his annual report.
“Our County Senior Hurling final is usually a pointer for the overall attendance rate each year and the small crowd at our last three reflects this trend.
With the help of Jim Fogarty’s excellent book called “The Dan Breen Cup” which was launched in October 2012, I traced back along the years to try and find a reason for this change in pattern in our match attendances.
Over the past ten years we went from a high of 12,710 in 2005 when Thurles Sarsfields won their first County title in 31 years to a low of 5,835 in 2008 when Toomevara beat the Sars. The average attendance since 2000 is 8,865 so we are well under this in recent years. The average during the 90s was 10,628 but this is inflated by a massive 17,000 crowd in 1997 who watched Clonoulty beat Mullinahone and in 1995 when 14,137 saw Nenagh overcome Boherlahan.
The biggest crowd recorded saw Clonoulty Rossmore win their first County Final over neighbours Holycross Ballycahill in 1989 but otherwise the average was around the 10,000 mark. The 70s was less that that, between 7-10,000 but the 60s was up around 10-12,000. Back in 1952 when Sarsfields beat Borris ileigh in MacDonagh Park, Nenagh, 15,000 spectators were in attendance and the following year 16,000 saw Borris-ileigh bounce back to beat Boherlahan. Incidentally by 1959 during their dominant period just 4,500 watched Sarsfields achieve their five in a row. So what can be learned from these trends in our attendances? The last three years is the lowest average in modern times and we must examine why this is so. There is no one reason for this downward trend and in my own opinion it is caused by one or all of the following:
The quality of our competitions has deteriorated due to the multiplicity of games within our divisions allowing too many opportunities to stay in the championships.
We have too many senior teams some of whom are not able to compete at that level but will not give up their senior status unless forced by relegation.
Our County finals are played in winter conditions when many patrons choose the easy option of watching live or deferred showings on TG4.
The current recession limits the amount of spending power of our patrons and even a reduction in the admission price has not improved this.
Whilst free passes are reflected in the overall attendance it does affect our gate receipts and with over 800 in circulation it must be addressed in some form.
Our county SH finals in recent years have become very predictable and contested between Sarsfields, Drom & Inch and Clonoulty. New teams are needed but with the current championship system of backdoors, the cream will continue to come to the top.