Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Premier Soccer League witnessed a decline in fans’ attendance in 2016, with a total of 441 608 paying to watch the 480 matches compared to 470 386 in the previous year.
The 6.1 percent decline translates to an average of 920 fans per match.
Highlanders, a long time cash cow of the league, attracted 20 percent of the attendance, with 84 211 fans watching Bosso in their 15 home games. It was, however, still a drop in attendances as 109 144 fans watched the Bulawayo giants’ home games in 2015.
The PSL declined to release total attendance figures for each of the 16 teams’ home games, with communications and media liaison officer Kudzai Bare saying she could only provide the overall total attendance figures.
“As a league we have those figures (for each home team), but I can only give you the total figure,” Bare said.
Highlanders hold annual general meetings where audited figures are presented to members.
“I think the main cause of the decline in figures is largely due to the prevailing liquidity crunch. As Highlanders, that dark patch where we went for five games without a win probably had an effect on attendances,” said Highlanders’ treasurer Donald Ndebele.
Bare concurred with Ndebele that economic challenges had a hand in the drop in match attendances. She, however, also believes counter attractions such as the English Premier League were a contributory factor.
“There are a number of factors, including the economic challenges we are facing as a country because football is not spared by it. Issues to do with team performance and mid-week games as well as other competing attractions like the EPL can all affect attendances,” she said.
There is also the issue of increased live coverage of local matches that might have seen fans opting to watch some of the games in the comfort of their homes, while poor manning of turnstiles can also not be ruled out with a significant number of fans gaining free entry into matches.
The league might need to consider investing in the Computicketing system where fans can purchase match tickets from selected outlets, which also reduces fraudulent activities at the gates.
“Fan engagement is one of the most crucial ways to improve game attendance. As we celebrate our silver jubilee, it’s one of the areas we are focusing on as we will be celebrating this important milestone with our fans.
“As a league, we are also encouraging our clubs to have active social media platforms so they can keep fans updated on all club info and activities. We will also be working with the clubs’ security and media departments to come up with programmes and strategies to curb hooliganism in our football. We are also working on improving gate management through a new ticketing system,” Bare said.