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Opinion

Estimated Newcastle United attendances at St James Park next (2021/22) season

2 weeks ago
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I have seen some interesting comments regarding Newcastle United attendances next season.

It looks like the last couple of Premier League matches for each club will see up to 10,000 fans able to attend this season.

Assuming the virus situation behaves, there is set to be 10,000 Newcastle fans allowed into the final home game against  Sheffield United.

Then final day of the season around 6,000 Fulham fans (25% of capacity) able to be inside Craven Cottage.

I think fair to say that there will be ten thousand, or whatever number is allowed, inside St James Park in May for that Sheff Utd match.

However, what about next season?

Obviously assuming, once again, that the virus situation allows, we could see the return to full capacities in time for the start of the 2020/21 season. Indeed, pretty much all remaining virus restrictions in our lives are set to be lifted towards the end of June 2021 according to the Government schedule.

How many though would actually turn up at St James Park?

The kind of comments I have seen from Newcastle fans online have been along the lines of believing there will be automatically full houses next season if NUFC are in the Premier League, or ‘at least 40,000 idiots still turning up every week’ even if it is Championship football for Newcastle United in 2020/21.

These kind of comments of course to do with Mike Ashley’s ongoing ownership and a belief from many that no matter what he does, Ashley will still have Newcastle fans flocking to St James Park…

Here are a few of the Newcastle United attendances under Mike Ashley:

15 August 2009 – Newcastle 3 Reading 0 – Attendance 36,944

28 August 2011 – Newcastle 2 Fulham 1 – Attendance 42,684

8 December 2019 – Newcastle 2 Southampton 1 – Attendance 42,303

As you can see, there have been some key moments when Newcastle United attendances were at serious risk of going on the slide.

Each time though Mike Ashley had fortune, or sheer desperation, on his side.

After relegation in May 2009 and the club in disarray, Ashley sold off any player he had an offer for, made Chris Hughton caretaker manager because he was cheap and available, but didn’t allow him any money to buy players, Hughton restricted to loans and frees in summer 2009.

He did an amazing job though and whilst only 36,944 attended that Shola hat-trick 3-0 win against Reading, the average Newcastle United attendances that season in the Championship ended up a very impressive 44,000+. If things had gone the other way, I think we would definitely have seen some attendances dropping under 30,000 that season and who knows beyond that.

Pretty amazing to think that the season that ended with Newcastle fifth in the Premier League, saw crowds as low as that 42,684 against Fulham in August 2011. Fans that summer had been still unhappy with Hughton forced out and the sale of Carroll, with seemingly minimal ambition shown. The signings of Ba and Cabaye proved to be real diamonds on a budget and the rest is history, attendances rising with results. However, if things had gone the other way, then I think clearly we would have seen crowds sinking beneath 40,000.

With the virus impact, it is easy for some to forget just how low things had sunk last season in terms of Newcastle United attendances, crowds like the Southampton one showing officially 10,000 unsold seats, though in some matches quite clearly there were more empty seats than that, with season ticket holders not even bothering to turn up.

Mike Ashley in sheer desperation giving away 10,000 free season tickets for the second half of that season.

That is a one-off that cannot be repeated by even an owner such as Mike Ashley because then it completely devalues the idea of others paying to get into matches.

So what next for Newcastle United attendances as we look ahead towards next season?

These are my estimates of the average Newcastle United attendances for 2020/21 based on various scenarios:

New owners and new manager, NUFC in the Premier League – 52,000 average and season ticket waiting list

New owners and new manager, NUFC in the Championship – 52,000 average and season ticket waiting list

Mike Ashley and new manager, NUFC in the Premier League – 36,000 average

Mike Ashley and new manager, NUFC in the Championship – 30,000 average

Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce, NUFC in the Premier League – 32,000 average

Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce, NUFC in the Championship – 28,000 average

(NB – Even Newcastle United fans couldn’t be unlucky enough to finally get new owners and they then  decide keeping Steve Bruce is any kind of an option)

The thing is, when you look back at having to give away 10,000 free season tickets only 15 months ago AND before that Steve Bruce’s first five months were actually his best / luckiest, then everything that has happened since and the contempt Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce have shown for the supporters. How could everybody think that suddenly there would be a full St James Park once again, just because the virus situation allows it????

That idea if madness, I certainly wouldn’t be setting foot inside SJP once again whilst Ashley and Bruce are still there and so many other longstanding match attenders feel the same.

We also have to accept that many people will still be reluctant to go into social situations of big (biggish!) crowds once the virus allows, so these estimates above may even be on the high side! Newcastle United has one of the oldest overall sets of season ticket holders and it will be the older age groups that will tend to be the most reluctant to ‘risk’ a return to ‘normal’ ways.

I don’t think anything ever changes in terms of the appetite of the Newcastle United fanbase and the willingness to rally around any decent bit of hope and positivity.

We have a massive number of fans and indeed a massive number of fans who want to go to matches, just look at the remarkable 51,000+ average in the last Championship season, incredible, no other club could have matched that.

However, when it comes to Mike Ashley, the spell has been broken, people have had enough, a lot of them. Ten thousand regulars said enough was enough when it came to last season.

The estimates above are also largely based as well on the fact that so many Newcastle fans are already tied in to attending next season due to having already paid for some or all of their 2021/22 season ticket already.

There are two very clear directions where Newcastle United attendances can head, continuing the steep slide if Mike Ashley remains – especially if Steve Bruce is still there as well, or with new owners a whole different ball game.

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