FRIDAY night football is a bone of contention at Roots Hall.
Any time there’s a Friday kick off, or even when a match is moved to Friday, message boards and Twitter are full of fans debating the merits of the end of the week fixture.
Many fans, working in London say it makes it more difficult for them to get to the game. Many fans unable to get to games on a Saturday see it as a chance
to get down to the Hall. But is there any difference in the attendances? Is it worthwhile for Southend to keep scheduling games on a Friday night? I decided to look at the attendances of the games to find out.
Using the excellent Southend United Database (sufcdb.co.uk), I looked at all the seasons of the Ron Martin era, comparing attendances of Friday night games and games on the traditional Saturday. I looked at League games only, excluding games on Good Friday as, given that it’s a Bank Holiday, there are more people able to get to games and this could skew the numbers. I included all home games this season up to Fleetwood. The basic findings are:
Since the start of the 2001/02 Season, Southend have played 215 games on a Friday night or a Saturday. Of these, 17.7 per cent (38 in total) were on a Friday night. This is very nearly two whole seasons of Friday night home games.
If you take the average attendance of Saturday games over that period, an average of 6,328 have watched Southend on a Saturday, compared to an average of 6,857 on a Friday night. So on average, over 500 more people go to Friday night games.
Only one season has not featured a Friday night league game, the 2007/2008 season.
Of the 12 seasons that have featured Friday night games, the average attendance of games on a Friday night has been higher than the average attendance of Saturday games six times.
However for three of those seasons, there was just one Friday night game.
The seasons with the most Friday night games were the 2009/10 season, with seven games, and the 2004/2005 season, with six games. In both of these seasons, the average attendance for Friday night games was higher than the average on Saturdays. And by some margin too, by 1,265 in 2009/10, and 979 in 2004/2005.
The season with the biggest margin for a greater Saturday average attendance than a Friday night attendance is currently this season, with 1,061 more on average attending on a Saturday (article published in November). However with only six home games played on a Saturday or Friday night so far, it might be wise to see how the season progresses attendance-wise before drawing any strong conclusions about this year. The biggest margin for a greater Saturday average attendance is 2001/2002, when 818 more saw the Saturday games on average.
Scunthorpe United fans must expect all their fans to either drive long distances or have a large number of supporters in London. Of the six times they’ve played at Roots Hall since 2001/2002, they’ve played on a Friday night four times, including for three seasons in a row. Orient have the second highest number of visits on a Friday night, with three.
Of course the main problem with the attendance stats is season ticket holders. I don’t know if Southend count their attendance as actual people through the turnstiles, or number of tickets actually sold for the game. A season ticket holder has of course bought tickets for every game, so may be counted as attending regardless of whether they are there or not.
So are Friday night games the way forward? It seems difficult to tell. The last three full seasons have seen higher Saturday average attendances
twice, and the time that the Friday night average attendance was higher, this was by the smallest margin of any season I’ve looked at where Friday night had a higher average, just 214 more. It may be that the thrill of Friday night under the floodlights is wearing off. Which for me would be a shame.