Wigan Atheltic are a football club that has shown how easy it is to establish themselves in the Premier League yet now they find themselves the butt of many jokes based purely on their attendances. But I find this mystifying considering the facts and indeed applaud the Latics for what they do.
The area of Wigan itself is deep in the burrows of Greater Manchester, famed for the manliest of pastimes, predominantly eating pies and playing rugby. With a population of around 80,000 and an economy not too dissimilar of Stoke-On-Trent, it’s plain to see that there are obvious similarities with both Stoke and Wigan. In fact, as a football club they have so far averaged an attendance of 18,227 (73% of their available seating) this season, their highest attendance bizarrely coming against West Bromwich Albion at 21,379 (85%). It is easy to assume that Wigan are just a poorly supported football club, that they have no fans. But you simply must take so many more factors into consideration and most don’t even think about these when brandishing their witty ‘no fans’ comments.
Firstly you must consider the economy of Wigan itself. In January 2011 the number of jobless individuals in the area was as high as 8,790. Considering that football is an expensive hobby to watch, and considering that a season ticket will cost a Wigan fan on average £295, it’s difficult to see why many would pay that money to see the Latics. If around 10% of the town are out of work, how can we expect a full 25,133 every week at the DW Stadium?
Secondly there is the lure of a greater evil, the lure of a sport they like to call rugby. Personally, I think rugby is a bit boring. Then again, I watch Stoke City and we’re evidently a rugby team plying their trade in the Premier League. Wigan currently groundshare the DW Stadium with Wigan Warriors, one of the most successful and well supported Rugby League clubs in the country, second only to Leeds Rhinos. In 2007, Warriors managed an average attendance of almost 16,500, not too far from the current attendances you’ll see when the Latics play. It’s evidently not just Wigan Athletic that are struggling for numbers though if the rugby league club are also averaging a similar (albeit marginally smaller) crowd.
Finally, and potentially the biggest factor in the lower attendances is the location. Wigan find themselves just 21 miles from Manchester United, 25 miles from Manchester City, and just 20 miles from Liverpool, it’s easy to see why people in the area may not be swung by a team like Wigan Athletic. Arguably you could say that they find themselves between 3 of the largest supported clubs in the country. All 3 teams have fanbases much larger than that of Wigan, in fact all 3 have global fanbases, something that Wigan most likely have yet on a much smaller scale.
So to conclude, you can be quick to judge a team’s low attendances on just the numbers, but if you look beyond the statistics you’ll see why they can be happy to get the attendances that they do.