Premier League suffers dip in attendances

The football season in Malta is over, and while the level of play may have improved, the number of people watching top-flight matches has fallen once again.

According to data issued by the Malta Football Association, stadium attendances dropped by 12,484 in the outgoing season.

Twelve months ago, Premier League matches attracted an attendance of 104,025 spectators, whereas this season’s total was 91,541.

Mario Formosa, who takes care of Malta’s largest local football social media group called ‘Football in Malta’ which has 15,158 members, said that in recent years, stadium attendances in all divisions, but especially at Premier level, suffered a great dip.

The main reason for this, he added, was the ‘decline in competitiveness’ in Malta.

He identified as probable causes the recent restrictions on the set up of match-day decorations, placed upon supporters inside the stadiums, and the ‘oversized’ Ta’ Qali stadium.

Asked if the foreigners’ quota, which sees Premier League teams field seven overseas players, affects the attendance, Formosa said it may have an effect but only marginally.

“However, I firmly believe that if a Maltese player is good he will play anyway irrespective of the number of foreign players on the club’s books,” Farrugia added.

Formosa believes the level of play in Malta goes hand in hand with the number of fans that attend matches.

“Surely, the more entertaining the Premier League becomes the more fans are attracted to the stadium.

“I believe that attendances would increase gradually if this were to happen,” he said.

In a survey, answered by 476 different respondents, ranging from 15 to 63 years, 43 per cent said they still support their favourite team at the stadium weekly.

However, despite most respondents agreeing that support at the stadium is essential, 63 per cent believe that the number of fans attending local football matches leaves much to be desired.

On the other side of spectrum, Myles Beerman has become one of Maltese football’s hottest prospects.

Earlier this month, Beerman was named in Pietro Ghedin’s national squad.

He played in the friendly against Ukraine and was on the bench for the World Cup qualifier against Slovenia, after  forcing his way into Rangers’ first team in the Scottish Premier League.

Beerman has plied his trade in front of crowds of about 48,000 spectators per game, since making his debut in the goalless draw against Kilmarnock on April 5.

“Supporters are a big influence, they affect the players in both ways,” Beerman said.

“Because of them, you have to stay focused.”

Comparing the sold-out stadiums in Scotland and the barely-filled stadiums in Malta, Beerman believes that the reason for this is the different football fan-base in the two countries.

Ticket prices

A ticket for a Premier League match in Malta costs €7 and allows supporters to watch two matches.

61% of the survey’s responses identified this cost as unjust, despite it being breadcrumbs, compared to the average cost to watch a top-tier match in Europe.

Formosa said he doesn’t consider the admission charge to be expensive.

He noted, however, that, “it could be costly for families who take their children with them, and for such situations, there should be some form of incentive.”

Comparing the above attendance figures to a country like Iceland, one finds that, despite their smaller population, Icelandic football has an average 1,107 spectators per match.

This works out as 648 supporters more than the average Maltese football match.

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