Many clubs are fighting against relegation from their respective topflight division, as they fear it will hurt their income and affect their budgets for the seasons to follow. But what is the impact of relegation on their supporters? Transfermarkt did an analysis on visiting supporters after relegation from the Dutch topflight division Eredivisie. Clubs taken into account are the ones that relegated from the Dutch Eredivisie between 2006/2007 and the 2014/2015 season. How does relegation impact the number of visitors and what can be done against declining visitor rates?
As expected, nearly all clubs that relegated from the Dutch Eredivisie witnessed a steep decline in the number of supporters visiting the home games of these clubs. RKC Waalwijk for example, after their relegation from the Dutch Eredivisie the small club registered over fifty-one percent less visitors in the following season after their relegation to the Dutch Jupiler League. The steep decline is mainly attributed to the poor performances of the squad, the lack of quality where nearly half of the relegation team left to show their football skills elsewhere.
Even clubs with some of the strongest backbones in The Netherlands in terms of visitors, have seen a significant decline in fans attending the home games. NAC Breda (-18%) and Willem II (-19%) sold a lot less tickets for their home games in the Dutch Jupiler League. Another important observation made was the further decrease in visitors when clubs were not able to compete for promotion play-off spots, thus not being competitive enough in their first season after relegation. So we know now that relegation equals less visitors and not being competitive enough also further decreases the number of visitors.
But is there no case that shown a stable flow of visitors or even an increased one? Well, yes there is. VVV Venlo was the only one club that stood out in their numbers, as their fans kept visiting the home games in big numbers after their relegation. The club even recorded one percent (1%) more visitors in 2008 after their relegation from the Eredivisie-season. This has been attributed to their strong squad, attractive style of play and successes on the pitch. The club was so successful during that season that promotion back to the Dutch topflight division was achieved within a season.
However, when the club relegated again after the 2012/2013 season they had no strong squad, the style of play was not attractive and they did not manage to gain any form of success. This caused a major decline in the number of visitors at stadium ‘De Koel’ (-40%). It also took them some years to recover and finally managed to seal promotion back to the Dutch Eredivisie by crowning themselves champions of the Jupiler League in the 2016/2017 season. No surprise, VVV Venlo was one of the best visited clubs in the Jupiler League that season.
So what can we learn from this study and case? Relegation equals a loss in matchday revenue by less visitors and thus less income from concessions and ticket sales. VVV Venlo has shown us that this can be curbed by conducting good scouting and signing the right players, having a technical staff with football philosophy that appeals to the clubs’ fans and having sponsors that are willing to invest a little extra to sign attractive players. Combining these should provide the right mix on the pitch to keep attracting visitors and even welcoming new ones.
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