Another season compiling and crunching EIHL numbers into a spreadsheet has enabled Tina Taylor to create a comparison blog to follow up on last year.
I did a similar article last year following some interest in the attendance charts I was putting out on twitter through the season and I did speculate that I might bring out a sequel to compare and contrast; so now that I’ve finally found the time, here it is!
The overall story is a mainly disappointing one, some teams did better than last season in terms of what they achieved versus potential attendance and most teams’ average per-game attendance was down on the previous season but there were the extra games which could have been a factor. Some teams’ performance fell short of their fans expectations and, unsurprisingly, they voted with their feet.
Here’s how everyone did compared to the previous season in terms of achieving capacity:
In contrast to the previous season where the trend started high and levelled out, last season started slow and actually levelled out in a similar fashion but slightly higher, no home games in November possibly whetting the appetite.
Having an equal amount of games against all teams has made the numbers a little more even for the Giants, top of the table rivalry games against the Devils unsurprisingly sticking out like a sore thumb, although one team attendance bar that also stands out to me is the games against the Panthers, a little below our Ehrhardt Conference cousins and a quick look back at my spreadsheet gives me the answer, one game on a Wednesday and two on a Sunday.
I commented last year on Giants having games on a Sunday being a bad idea, having to have pizza for breakfast being one of the reasons but that’s just a hungover away fan perspective, hockey wise Sundays this past season weren’t quite as far behind Saturdays but Fridays saw a significant average drop. Simply put, Belfast is a ‘Hockey Saturday’ kind of place!
It depends how you want to spin the Devils attendance, they maintained their potential capacity at 96% but the overall per-game attendance was down versus the 17/18 season, you would imagine that the Wednesday games might have something to do with that, not a popular game night. Tuesday and Thursday were festive period games so you could almost count them as Saturdays in terms of popularity of the fixture.
The per-team attendances and averages, similarly to the Giants, have a little more parity to them with obvious exceptions in the form of Dundee and Fife, one of the Dundee games was the lowest Sunday game attendance and two of Fife’s were on a Wednesday.
One quick note, none of the games against Gardiner Conference opposition were a sell-out, regardless of the day the game was on.
Last year I mused on the heavy actual gate bias for in-conference games at Coventry while the averages told a completely different story and this past season it seems that it reinforces the conclusion I came to, it’s a significant bias towards Ehrhardt Conference opposition despite being placed in a conference with Manchester, MK and Guildford. I would imagine Nottingham and Sheffield have the benefit of proximity and despite Cardiff having a fierce rivalry with Belfast this season in the race for the top spot, the Devils still apparently were able to draw the crowds to the Skydome.
Coventry continue to favour Sunday hockey nights, with a more sizeable definition this past season, and with the departure of the Edinburgh Capitals they are the only EIHL team to do so. Last season’s midweek games were mainly during the festive period and are something of a red herring.
One of two teams to have improved on average per-game attendance AND potential overall capacity, it’s not a massive increase but an increase all the same. Last year I was singing their praises after a sharp improvement in numbers midway through the season, it’s a great rink and the potential for them to get better starts with the people they can consistently get through the door.
The even amount of games shows how important the conference games are to Dundee, clear favourites for totals and averages so you can see now why they, along with the other Scottish teams, fought so hard to keep them.
Aside from the Tuesday game, a January 3rd encounter with Milton Keynes, the Stars fans appear to be happy to turn up in consistent numbers whatever the day.
It looks to be quite a significant drop in the overall per-game attendance on the top Fife chart, there wasn’t quite the buzz from the ‘plucky underdogs’ that you often get with them, the late surge for a decent Playoff spot didn’t come and it was disappointing from the fans perspective.
Similarly to the Stars the in-conference games were a clear draw for the fans with an honourable mention for the Panthers games, two of which came during Panthers triple headers so it’s reasonable to conclude that a good portion of the attendees were from Nottingham.
The days of the week look similar to the previous season, I summarised last year as I’m going to this, while it probably wouldn’t be advisable to have too many weekday games, the Flyers fans don’t seem to be too troubled by them.
Apparently the change of name wasn’t instrumental in an attendance surge last season, call them what you will, if the results aren’t forthcoming then the people won’t come! I got the sense that the Clan fans were feeling something like us Panthers fans in the sense that despite them finishing fourth in the league, which at face value doesn’t sound terrible, it was still a thoroughly disappointing season.
No hockey at home in September doesn’t seem to have had any effect on hockey appetite as it wasn’t an instant surge in October and in fact, in November it got worse! To keep the theme running for the Scottish teams, the in-conference games were the most popular, although not as clear favourite as for Fife and Dundee, with an honourable mention to Panthers games again.
Sunday was the game day to avoid in 17/18 for the Clan and at first glance it might seem that it followed into last season but look a little closer at the numbers and it’s actually down to the reduction in the average on Saturday nights that brings them closer together. A worry if that trend continues into this season.
While the Flames achieved an increase in their overall per-game average attendance, there was a slight reduction in their potential capacity which can probably be attributed to the extra games, that summary will perhaps be vindicated if they increase it next year.
The M4 is possibly an assistant to the Guildford-Cardiff games like the M1 is to the Coventry-Nottingham games, it’s not nearly as close but it does make it pretty accessible. It’s the only explanation I’ve got if I’m honest, it’s not a rink that I’m overly inclined to visit on a regular basis!
Similarly to how I summarised the Flyers, I would advise against an abundance of weekday games but it seems quite steady regardless of the day the game is played.
For now at least, the attendance of the Storm seems to have plateaued a little, they had the biggest drop in potential capacity and the attendances all round are lower in general aside from the NYE War of the Roses fixture.
Location looks to have had a slight influence in the per-team numbers with Nottingham and Coventry being the following best attendances after Sheffield games.
The days of the week seem to have followed a similar pattern to the 17/18 season but they are slightly lower, hopefully that’s not a trend that continues.
Milton Keynes Lightning
It’s a shame we’re talking about Milton Keynes in the past tense, the ineptitude of the Moody’s saw the demise of a team who had a commendable travelling fanbase and a fairly stable home crowd to build from. They didn’t improve on per-game average or potential capacity but is that wholly surprising given the bleak outlook and the lack of players that made it to the end of the season?
A slight spike seems to be the games against the Panthers and as I was there for one of those games I can confirm that we travelled in fair numbers, whilst we stayed overnight it is a do-able distance to drive there and back on the same night.
MK saw a slight preference for Saturday games but Sunday appears to have been acceptable while the usual Saturday alternative of Friday appeared to be undesirable.
For me personally, we got in to about February and I couldn’t wait for the season to be over but it would appear that my non-enthusiasm wasn’t shared as Panthers were the other team, along with the Stars, to make gains on potential capacity and average attendance per game overall.
No big surprises on either per-team averages or game days, Sheffield games still leading the way with Coventry following close behind, a switcheroo on Cardiff and Belfast games from last season and the rest being much of a muchness. Aside from the one festive Monday fixture Saturday is still favoured as a hockey night for Panthers which, as hockey games are often the start of a night out in Nottingham, isn’t really anything out of the ordinary.
So, no Ice Sheffield to try and adjust for this year (Thankfully!) and the lack of games in the en-suite goes a long way to explaining the jump in overall per-game average attendance! Next year will be more comparable.
Games against Nottingham obviously taking centre stage in the per-team averages and at first glance you could be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the Milton Keynes figures until you remember that at least one of them was a five pound seat game. Clever, if not especially lucrative, but balance that out with what they might have expected to achieve from that game and I suspect it worked out well for them.
Taking out the festive Thursday game for Sheffield and it would appear that there is a fairly even balance on game days but with Saturday being a slight favourite.
I don’t think I’ve gone into a great deal of detail with analysis which is good because I don’t want to bore anyone more than is absolutely necessary but let’s face it, if you were bored you wouldn’t have got this far! In all seriousness though I don’t feel like I need to go into too much detail because the graphics speak for themselves and the comparative data can help you to draw your own conclusions.
It’s worth making the point that last season isn’t a direct comparison to it’s predecessor and so it will follow this season with the loss of Milton Keynes, this may have had an effect on footfall as each team did something different with the additional games that were created following the demise of the Edinburgh Capitals.
It’s reasonable to think that attendance will plateau at some point but I really hope that we haven’t reached that stage just yet, I think most teams have the potential to expand and I would love to see full barns on a regular basis especially the rink teams so they have more scope to, in turn, expand operations on the ice and have a more credible and consistent challenge in the league.