Carrow Road pulling in best crowds for 40 years
Norwich City’s exciting Premier League progress has been accompanied by another season of pushing back the boundaries in terms of attendances.
Figures updated after last week’s home game against Manchester United show that the Canaries are 12th in the list of average gates in the top flight.
The 13 Premier League home games so far have pulled in 345,116 at Carrow Road, an average of 26,547.
It represents a rise of 4.5 per cent on last season, when City’s 23 Championship home games attracted crowds totalling 583,886 at an average of 25,386.
Outside the top flight, only one club in the three divisions of the Football League currently has better gates than the Canaries, with Championship leaders West Ham pulling in an average of 30,370.
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It means that City are being watched by the biggest crowds at Carrow Road for nearly 40 years, showing the biggest league average since 1972-73, the club’s first season in Division One, when attendances totalled 601,757 and averaged 28,652.
Sunday’s gate for the United game was just five short of the season’s best, the 26,816 for the December visit of Newcastle United, an all-seater record for the stadium and the biggest home attendance since 1983.
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If proof were needed that Paul Lambert’s Canaries are maximising their potential and punching above their weight, they are currently higher in the table than four clubs with better crowds – Sunderland, Aston Villa, Everton and Stoke – while no club with smaller support is higher placed than them.
While money received through the gate will not represent a major proportion of the club’s income this season when compared with their overall Premier League cash windfall, it should still be a bumper year for the box office.
Income from gate receipts and ticket sales in the year ended May 31, 2011 – effectively the Championship season – was listed in the annual accounts at �8.13m, a significant improvement of 16 per cent on �6.98m from their season in League One, but one would anticipate an even bigger rise when the next set of figures are announced.
City have not had a league attendance below 26,000 this season – the difference between their highest and lowest gate is only just over 700 – and though casual tickets have hit top adult prices of �55 and �45 for Grade A games, a rude shock to many a pocket, they have consistently found enough people prepared to pay it.
The question City face now is how and when to get more people into the ground.
They have stressed before that plans to redevelop the stadium up to a proposed 35,000 capacity would only be undertaken if and when the club had enjoyed three consecutive years in the top flight.
Back in November, fans were told that discussions had begun about the possibility of putting temporary seating in the stadium, in front of the hotel in the Barclay Stand-Jarrold Stand corner, possibly by the spring, but there has been no further announcement and with only six home games to go this season, we await further developments.
In the meantime, with Manchester City and Liverpool still to visit, the current average is unlikely to suffer greatly.
? One of the enduring memories of City’s visit to Old Trafford on a glorious October afternoon was the way 72,000 Manchester United fans were out-shouted by about 3,000 travelling fans in an otherwise muted atmosphere.
And Sunday’s return fixture provided another highlight when Grant Holt scored his equalising goal. It was not just the brilliance of the finish or the mayhem it produced in the home crowd, but the way about 2,500 United fans were frozen into stunned silence by the goal. Never mind a photo, you could have done an oil painting of them.
It was as if they couldn’t believe City had the effrontery to score against their team.
Of course they recovered from their cryogenic state when Ryan Giggs delivered his own touch of brilliance and sent them back to their various parts of England in good voice.
• HOME ATTENDANCES
Barclays Premier League totals (average in brackets)
Manchester Utd 979,529 (75,348)
Arsenal 779,444 (59,957)
Newcastle 639,378 (49,182)
Manchester City 611,296 (47,022)
Liverpool 537,726 (44,810)
Chelsea 540,687 (41,591)
Sunderland 499,993 (38,461)
Tottenham 468,941 (36,072)
Aston Villa 445,550 (34,273)
Everton 430,309 (33,100)
Stoke 353,476 (27,190)
Norwich 345,116 (26,547)
Wolves 333,280 (25,636)
Fulham 328,083 (25,237)
West Brom 320,001 (24,615)
Bolton 305,926 (23,532)
Blackburn 288,236 (22,172)
Swansea 259,087 (19,929)
Wigan 231,584 (17,814)
QPR 221,617 (17,047)