From the Archives - extratime.ie League of Ireland Attendance Report 2019
- Gareth Penrose
- Mon, Jun 29 2020
From the Archives - our attendance correspondent Gareth Penrose sums up the state of play for the league's attendances after the 2019 season.
For the third season in a row, the SSE Airticity League of Ireland has seen an increase in attendances. The increase this season is an interesting one. 467,283* people came and watched from the stands for the 2019 season, an increase of 25,817 over 2018. The source of that gain may surprise. While 4,173 more spectators enjoyed Premier Division football in 2019, the First Division saw a gain of 21,644 over the previous season.
*Source of attendance figures:
295 of the 315 games are official figures with estimates for the remaining 20 matches where extratime.ie were not able to source official figures for these games. 18 of the 20 clubs provided a full set of official attendance figures. The entire set of Derry City home games are estimated with the only other estimates coming from two of Dundalk’s home matches. Our figures for these games are a combination of estimates from club officials, extratime.ie reporters and other members of the media. Should we get the official figures in the future, we will update this article.
Highlights and Lowlights – The Facts and Figures
467,283 people attended 315 league games in 2019, resulting in an average attendance of 1,483, which is an increase of 82 on 2018.
The Premier Division accounted for 388,693 of that total, meaning the average attendance in the top tier was 2,159, an increase of 23 on 2018. The First Division had a smaller percentage of the crowds with 78,590 and an average of 582. The positive news for the lower division is the increase in the average attendance by 160 per game.
In 2019, 54.75% (255,848) of the league’s total audience came from only five clubs – Bohemians, Cork City, Derry City, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers.
Four Seasons of League of Ireland
After the dominance of Cork City in the attendance charts over the recent years, 2019 saw the Rebel Army lose their top spot with Shamrock Rovers becoming the best supported team in the league. 62,005 people turned up to Tallaght Stadium, which represented 13.27% of the total league attendance.
Bohemians moved into second place with 51,795 passing through the Dalymount Park turnstiles (11.08%). Dundalk had the third largest crowds of the season with 49,554 (10.6%). Derry City’s estimated crowds put them in fourth.
Cork City drop to fifth and have moved from having 16.8% of the overall league crowds to 9.65% (45,098).
Percentage of Attendance per club
St. Patrick's Athletic
Shamrock Rovers have taken Cork City’s crown as the club with the best average attendance in the league. Rebel Army fans can still boast the best average attendance over the last number of years but no longer are they the top dogs. The Hoops' average attendance this year was 3,445, an increase of 588. Bohemians were second with 2,878 (up 742) with Dundalk once again in third with 2,753 (down 48).
Ten teams averaged over 1,000 which is two more than last year but still one behind 2017. Five clubs averaged over 2,000 which is one less than last year but up on 2017 and 2016. The ten team Premier Division definitely helped clubs in the top flight maintain a larger average attendance.
Seven of the ten Premier Division teams improved their average attendances from 2018. Cork City, Dundalk and Waterford all suffered drops. Cork City’s form impacted their gate and they experienced the largest drop in the league (1,616 less than 2018).
Nine of the ten First Division teams improved on their average attendances from 2018. Only Limerick, who had a tough season on and off the pitch, suffered a drop. They saw their average drop from 919 to 448. All the other clubs gained with the biggest gains experienced by Shelbourne (420 more than 2018) and Drogheda United (515 more).
The most improved club average in 2019 was Bohemians with an increase of 742. The biggest average fall was Cork City as they saw their average drop by 1,616. The size of the drop they experienced is, incredibly, larger than 13 clubs’ average attendance!
League Totals and Averages
St. Patrick's Athletic
Best attended matches
For a number of seasons the top 20 has been dominated by Cork City home fixtures but this season Shamrock Rovers have taken over. Tallaght Stadium saw the six best attended games of the season. Overall, Rovers appear seven times at home in the top 20. However they also were the visitors in seven more fixtures, which means 14 of the 20 best attended games featured Shamrock Rovers.
Bohemians and Dundalk home games both feature four times in the Top 20. St Patrick’s Athletic appear twice with Derry City, Waterford and Cork City getting one entry each.
Shamrock Rovers' 1-0 home win over Bohemians drew the largest SSE Airtricity League crowd of the season with 7,021 turning up at Tallaght. The same fixture earlier in the season came in second with 6,414 in attendance. The two fixtures combined drew a larger crowd than ten teams' season totals!
The best attended First Division game of the season was the 3-1 Shelbourne win over Drogheda United in United Park which saw 2,596 turn up.
Top 20 Attended games
Lowest attended matches
Athlone Town, Cobh Ramblers and Wexford all feature in the top ten lowest attendances list. The lowest crowd of the season was the 2-2 draw between Athlone Town and Cabinteely in June (162).
Total number of games played: 315
Total League of Ireland 2019 Attendance: 467,283 (up 25,817 on 2018)
Average gate for the 2019 season: 1,483
Average gate for Premier Division: 2,159
Average gate for the First Division: 582
Total number of attendees in the Premier Division: 388,693
Total number of attendees in the First Division: 78,590
Largest Attendance: 7,021 – Shamrock Rovers 1-0 Bohemians
Lowest Attendance: 162 – Athlone Town 2-2 Cabinteely
Home wins in 2019: 147 (down 1 on 2018)
Away wins in 2019: 102 (down 7 on 2018)
Draws in 2019: 30 scoreless, 33 score draws - 66 (up 8 on 2018)
Home Goals in 2019: 469 (down 49 on 2018)
Away Goals in 2019: 380 (up 26 on 2018)
SSE Airtricity League of Ireland - Danske Bank Premiership Mash-up
How does the Danske Bank Premiership attendances compare to that of the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland? Taking the 2019/2020 Premiership figures to date, we have compiled a full list of average attendances per club and done a comparison with the 2019 League of Ireland season. The figures for the Premiership are all official attendances.
Linfield top the attendance averages for the Northern Irish clubs with 2,246. That places them sixth highest when added to the League of Ireland teams. Glentoran come in next in ninth place with 1,881.
With 32 teams in the list (20 League of Ireland and 12 Premiership), if we were to form two divisions of 16 each based on average attendances, the top flight would consist of nine League of Ireland teams and seven Premiership and, based on the current attendances, would have an average attendance of 2,108.
The lower tier, made up of five Premiership and 11 League of Ireland, would have an average attendance of 604.
The best attended game so far this season in the Premiership (Linfield 1-0 Glentoran – 4,810) would rank as fourth-highest in a combined fixture comparison.
Danske / SSE Airtricity Combined
No of Games
Gameweek by Gameweek
For the purposes of this article we have created gameweeks based on date ranges. The ranges are included below.
Gameweek by Gameweek
1 -4 Mar
8 - 9 Mar
22 - 23 Mar
29 - 30 Mar
5 -6 Apr
12 -13 Apr
19 - 20 Apr
22 - 23 Apr
26 -27 Apr
3 - 4 May
10 - 11 May
17 - 18 May
20 - 21 May
24 - 25 May
3 - 8 Jun
28 - 29 Jun
12 - 15 Jul
19 - 21 Jul
26 - 28 Jul
29 Jul - 3 Aug
16 - 19 Aug
26 - 31 Aug
2 - 6 Sep
|13 - 16 Sep||9||9,941||1,105||1,792||761|
|20 - 21 Sep||10||13,501||1,350||2,009||691|
|23 - 27 Sep||2||5,534||2,767||2,767||0|
|4 -5 Oct||5||8,945||1,789||1,789||0|
|8 - 11 Oct||4||7,499||1,875||1,875||0|
|18 - 22 Oct||6||11,533||1,922||1,922||0|
2019 SSE AIRTRICITY LEAGUE OF IRELAND PREMIER DIVISION ATTENDANCES
Bohemians recorded a third-place finish in the League of Ireland Premier Division, securing European football for next season. They also succeeded in increasing the attendances compared to previous seasons. 51,795 punters turned up at Dalymount Park (11.08% of the total league attendance) which meant an average of 2,878 per game. That’s an increase of over 700 on last season per game. The best crowd of the season was in June for the visit of Shamrock Rovers (3,640) while their lowest gate came in May against Finn Harps (2,046).
TREND: The Gypsies had a strong opening eight games before have a dip for the visits of Sligo Rovers and Finn Harps. With the exception of the game against Shamrock Rovers, that dip continued for Derry City, Pats, UCD and Waterford before they started to see attendances rise back to early season numbers.
Cork City have been the trailblazers for attendance figures over the last number of seasons. With a drop in form this season, they have also seen a drop at the turnstiles. In 2018 the Rebel Army attendance accounted for 16.8% of the league attendance. In 2019, that dropped to 9.65% and has seen Bohemians, Derry City, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers record higher total gates. The Cork average dropped to a four season low with 2,505. (4,121 in 2018, 4,559 in 2017, 2,533 in 2016). Their best attendance this season was the opening game against Waterford (4,382). The lowest crowd was in April against Finn Harps (1,612). You have to go back to October 2016 for the last time Cork City drew a crowd lower than 2,000 in the league.
TREND: Having opened with a very good attendance, the figures dropped considerably before a small fight back for two games (over 3,000) before they took another plunge. The only real stand-out attendance in the remaining 11 games of the season was against Dundalk (3,337).
Derry City do not provide official figures but we have worked to try and get the best estimates we could for the 2019 season. From the estimates, the visit of Shamrock Rovers in April was the clubs best attendance (3,500) while the visits of UCD and Cork City in July and September respectively is recorded as their lowest (1,900).
TREND: Not Applicable due to estimates
Dundalk have been very consistent on the pitch over the last four seasons as they have with their attendances. They have maintained an average that has been between 2,705 and 2,801 for the last four years. The average for 2019 was 2,753 which is slightly down on 2018 but up on 2017 and 2016. Their gate represents 10.6% of the overall league attendance (49,554 attended Oriel Park). Their best attendance of the season was the visit of Shamrock Rovers in April (4,026) while the lowest crowd turned up for the visit of UCD in August (1,843). For the first time since we have been recording attendances, we have two estimates for Dundalk. We have requested the official figures and should we get them we will update this article.
TREND: Game 1 to Game 8 saw a strong gate for Dundalk before taking a dip from Game 9 to 14. Three of the final four games saw a marked increase with the exception of the visit of Derry City (2,106).
Finn Harps have survived to fight another season in the top flight after a promotion play-off victory. Despite having finished second last in the league, their average attendance was up on the previous year. 1,158 was the average for 2019 which was an improvement on their First Division promotion campaign which averaged 708. Their best attendance was for the visit of Derry City in April (2,228) while the lowest crowd of the season was against St Patrick’s Athletic also in April (659).
TREND: After their first five games reached attendances greater than 1,000 (two greater than 2,000), their next seven games were all lower than 1,000. With Premier Division survival on the line, the club saw a surge in attendances for the last five out of seven games.
2019 was a good season for Shamrock Rovers on and off the pitch. With an FAI Cup in the bag and a second-place Premier Division finish, they can include the title of best supported club too. Rovers have been making steady progress over the last four seasons. This season they recorded an average attendance of 3,445, the only club to break the 3,000 mark. The 62,005 people that came into Tallaght Stadium represent 13.27% of the total league attendance. The highest crowd of the season for the Hoops was against Bohemians in August (7,021) while the lowest crowd was the 7-0 win over UCD in July (1,523).
TREND: Shamrock Rovers' pattern is very erratic. Game 1 and 2 were similar (4,612, 4,705) before a 3,000 plus drop. Game 4, 5 and 6 were consistent (around the 3,000 mark) before going on a run of 13 games with very differing attendances. The biggest swings came over Game 14 to Game 17. From 1,824, three days later Tallaght saw a crowd of 7,021 before dropping to 4,423 and then back down to 1,822.
Sligo Rovers had an average of 1,996 per game this season, which is an increase on last season (1,803) and better than the previous three season. Their gate represented 7.69% of the overall league attendance. Their best showing by quite some length was the opening game against St. Patrick’s Athletic (3,314) while their lowest crowd was for the visit of UCD in July (1,457).
TREND: Game 1 set a bar for Sligo that they never came close to again all season. They saw a drop of over 1,000 for the next game and continued to see a reduction in the gate game by game until Game 6. From Game 7 to Game 10 they slowly began increasing their crowd before dropping once more. They never reached the height of Game 10 again but for the last four games, their crowd did start to slowly grow again.
ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC
In 2016, Pats' average gate was 957. This season they have managed to almost double that average. 1,890 attended Inchicore on average across the season. Their best attendance of the season was against Shamrock Rovers in March (4,389) while their lowest gate was against Derry City in April (1,018).
TREND: Like many clubs, Pats' opening game saw one of their best crowds of the season before dropping 1,732 for their next game. Shamrock Rovers have had a great travelling support and that contributed to Pats' best gate in Game 3. From there they dropped a couple thousand to 1,878 and floated in the 1,000s for five games before a surge for Bohemians game. That surge (suggesting away fans boost) dropped back to the 1,000s for three games before a boost for the season visit of Shamrock Rovers. The crowds dropped for four games before another surge for Bohs' visit on the final day.
UCD are not known for their support with averages of 317, 220 and 353 from 2016 to 2018. With Premier Division football, their average did get an expected bounce. 2019 saw the Students average gate reach 739. They broke the 1,000 mark on four occasions with their highest crowd of the season turning up for their game against Bohemians (1,609), while they recorded their lowest attendance against Finn Harps in July (392).
TREND: As UCD have a smaller core following, the opponent supporters tend to have a significant impact on the attendance figures. After a strong Game 1 and Game 2 attendance due to matches against fellow Dubliners Bohemians and Pats, the attendance dropped considerably for the next four games. Another spike for Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers in Game 7 and 9 before attendances once again dropped to mid to low 100s bar the second visit of Bohemians in 13.
It wasn’t the season Waterford had hoped for. The loss of European football took some wind out of their sails but they still completed a sixth-place finish and a very solid 1,597 average attendance per game. It is a drop from last year's 2,314 but you have to consider the fact in 2016 that average was 277. Their best attendance of the season was the opening day clash with Shamrock Rovers (4,152) which was the ninth best crowd of the season across all games. Their lowest crowd was the second last game of the campaign against Sligo Rovers (585).
TREND: Unfortunately, after a great start to the campaign, the attendance figures trend downwards. A couple of spikes on Game 5 and 13 but there was a 3,510 drop from Game 1 to Game 18 for Waterford. The loss of European football has taken the momentum from Waterford’s gate that still is a great success considering where they were in 2016.
2019 SSE AIRTRICITY LEAGUE OF IRELAND FIRST DIVISION ATTENDANCES
Athlone Town finished eighth in the SSE Airtricity First Division in 2019, the first time they haven’t finished bottom of the league in four years. Not only did their league table finish improve, their attendances have taken a relative leap forward. For the previous three seasons, the club averaged between 133 and 156. In 2019, their average crowd jumped to 354.
As has become the norm, their best gate was for the midlands derby against Longford Town (723) with the June visit of Cabinteely drawing their lowest crowd (162).
TREND: The club saw their attendances rise from Game 1 to 3 before going on a six-match run of descending attendances. From Game 10 to 14 the attendances started rising again with the exception of Game 13 (vs Drogheda United).
Bray Wanderers had a strong home performance in 2019, recording nine wins from 13 games. They managed to break through the 1,000 barrier on five occasions, which is always an impressive feat in the First Division. Compared to the previous season, they had an increase of 85 on their average attendance from 2018, bringing it to 798. Shelbourne’s visit in June was their best gate (1,428) with their clash against Athlone Town seeing the lowest number of people turning up at the Carlisle Grounds (462).
TREND: This season was a real yo-yo regarding attendances. There were considerable swings from game to game. There was a drop of 480 from Game 2 to 3 before a gain of 758 for Game 4 before dropping again by 660 for Game 5. That was very much the trend for the entire season.
A great year on the field for Cabo as they made the play-offs and just missed out on a chance to face Finn Harps for promotion. With an average of 286 last season, the club increased their gate on average to 370 this season. Their best attendance of the season was the opening day clash against Bray Wanderers (813) while Galway’s visit in August drew their worst gate (204).
TREND: Much like Bray Wanderers, Cabinteely never achieved consistency over the season as their gates rose and fell from game to game. The biggest drop was from Game 1 to Game 2 (546) whilst their biggest gain was from Game 9 to 10 (482). Both occasions saw Bray Wanderers as the opponents suggesting they brought a sizable away crowd for each game.
Cobh Ramblers saw a very minor increase in their average attendance (266) from last year (243) but they are still down on the previous few seasons. The end-of-season visit of Shelbourne was the Cork side’s best attended game (387) while April’s clash against Drogheda United registered their lowest crowd (188).
TREND: Cobh’s gate was the second lowest in the league with 3,726 coming through the turnstiles in St Colman’s Park. While the travelling support has an effect on every club’s gate, the fact Cobh have a smaller base means the opposition support can have a large percentage increase/decrease on the attendance from game to game. In reality the club attendances were pretty consistent with the difference between the minimum and maximum attendance only 199.
Drogheda United finished second in the league and narrowly missed out on promotion after play-off defeat to Finn Harps. The drive for promotion also saw an improvement on their gate compared to the previous three seasons. The club average this season was 928. That beats 2016 (583), 2017 (815) and 2018 (413). Their lowest crowd of the season was against Wexford in the second last game of the season (560). Prior to their last game of the season, the best attendance was 1,107 against Bray Wanderers but the final game of the season against Shelbourne eclipsed it. An impressive 2,596 turned up as Shelbourne sealed league success with a 3-1 win over the Drogs.
TREND: The attendances yo-yoed up and down for the first five games before the attendances started to trend upwards until Game 9. From there,it went back into a yo-yo cycle before ending on a season high.
Galway United finished seventh in the league and their attendances reflected it as the campaign progressed. From a season high attendance against Shelbourne on the opening day (2,174) they reached a season-low crowd on the second last game of the season against Cobh Ramblers (456). On a positive, their season average was 791 which was up on 2018’s 758.
TREND: Hope springs eternal and the Galway United faithful turned up on the opening day to see Galway take a 2-0 lead. Three second half goals from Shels turned that game around. Their next home game saw a 958 drop. Another loss, and the crowd dropped another 413. Unfortunately for the Tribesmen they never really recovered the crowds after a run of losses and attendances mostly trended downwards from Game 1 to Game 14 (1,686 difference between the games).
Before points deductions hit Limerick they had finished sixth in the league. Records, however, will now show they ended up in last place on ten points following a 26 point reduction in their tally. Like a number of clubs, the Blues' best-attended game was the opening game (814) with their second-last game against Athlone Town registering their lowest (227). Limerick’s season average in 2019 was 448, which doesn’t compare favourably to previous years - 1,133 (2016), 1,610 (2017), 919 (2018).
TREND: It was a difficult season for Limerick and while they started out with a decent 814 in attendance, they trended mostly downwards across the season. Small peaks on the journey through the season before dropping down further. Their last five games each saw less than 400 in attendance. In 2018, their lowest crowd was 450.
Longford Town succeeded in securing third place in the league but failed to overcome Cabo in the play-off. Ten wins at home (and no draws) out of 13 games would have pleased the Town faithful and it showed on the gates as they averaged 610 this season, which is up on the previous three seasons. Their second-last game of the season was their best with 1,111 turning up for the Shelbourne clash. The lowest gate of the season was their next (and final game of the season) with 430 watching from the City Calling stands for the visit of Bray Wanderers.
TREND: Longford’s opening two gates were their strongest with the exception of Game 12. The rest of the games remained between the 641 and 430 mark.
League champions Shelbourne have also managed to improve their average attendance this year. 1,074 was the average for the 2019 season. The previous three seasons saw averages of 654, 500 and 583 so there has been a marked increase in fans turning up at Tolka Park. Their best-attended game was the second-last game of the season against Bray Wanderers (1,655), with the lowest coming for the visit of Cobh Ramblers in May (760).
TREND: Shels had a good opening attendance but for the next six games saw that number drop steadily. The turning point was after Game 7. The next six games saw a jump in spectators that never dropped below 1,000 for the rest of the season.
With Limerick dropping 26 points, Wexford managed to avoid the foot of the table once more. They do sit at the bottom of the attendance charts though. 3,061 was the lowest number of people to watch a League of Ireland team this season. They averaged 235 per game which is an improvement on last season. Their best attended game with the May game against Shelbourne (319) with their lowest coming against Cabinteely on the final day (174).
TREND: With the attendance for the season between 174 and 319, there is no real trend to note.
* the graphs for each division is interactable - you can select and deselect teams and hover to see attendance values
Phew! You made it to the end. We’d like to thank all the club officials who provided attendance figures over the season. We have gone from having a large volume of estimated attendances to almost all official figures. Your patience at our constant requests is very much appreciated.
If you have any comments or issues with facts and figures, you can reach this article’s author on @garethpenrose. If you spot any errors, please let us know.
Please note that if you do use the figures found here further afield in print or online, on radio or on television, please credit extratime.ie as the source as it has taken a lot of effort to gather and compile this information.
About Gareth Penrose
Gareth Penrose founded extratime.com in 2008 and has worked as a reporter / editor / developer on the site since.
Over the last 14 years, Gareth has covered games in the League … View Full Profile
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