Value for Money

Memba Ben By Memba Ben, 9th Aug 2018 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

An attempt to solve the mystery of the dwindling PSL match attendance.

Give people reasons to attend.

PSL Chairman Dr. Irvin Khoza has recently bemoaned the fact that there are not enough fans attending matches and had announced that since the 2010 FIFA World up, only two teams (Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates) have consistently averaged over thirty percent in tickets sold for the ABSA Premiership.

From the early 70’s up until the mid-noughties, attendances at football matches were high even with the presence of live coverage. Going to a game was a national pastime that people that could did on a religious basis.

Nowadays, you’d be lucky to find a packed stadium.

While fans might’ve stopped attending game days regularly, it’s not exactly rocket science as to why.

An abundance of better alternatives:
Firstly, there is a huge over saturation of entertainment. People nowadays have a variety of channels that cater to their specific needs as opposed to the older days when satellite television and streaming hadn’t taken off.

Take a look at the highest viewed shows and pick the odd one out:

– Uzalo: 9,289,705
– Generations: The Legacy: 8,927,752
– Skeem Saam: 4,936,883
– Xhosa News: 4,704,747
– Zulu News: 4,271,741

– Muvhango: 5,536,114
– 491 Days Book Launch: 3,031,734
– 7de Laan: 2,852,458
– Lesilo Rula: 2,850,782
– Music: 2,782,726

– Isidingo: the Need: 948,254
– Sunfoil Test Series: South Africa vs Australia: 884,253
– Tropika Island of Treasure: 783,033
– Wildlife Rescue Africa: 775,744
– The Bold and the Beautiful: 629,290
– Scandal: 5,480,679
– Rhythm City: 4,249,611
– Just for Laughs Gags Filler: 3,769,236
– Epk: Cinderella: 3,439,284
– Tangled (Animation): 2,774,548

– The Queen: 1,493,373
– Our Perfect Wedding: 1,248,130
– Abomama: 1,090,747
– Isibaya: 972,853
– Date My Family: 922,641

If by chance you haven’t noticed it, cricket is the only sporting code is listed within the top five rankings of all the platforms.

As the late screenwriter Blake Snyder once wrote:

“There are movies, TV, radio, the Internet and music. There are 300 channels of cable; there are magazines; and there are sports. In truth, on any given weekend, even an avid moviegoer only has about 30 seconds to decide what to see.”

While the context may be different, the point he makes is still the same. All these mediums are competing for your attention and specifically, your money.

Market shrinkage:
SuperSport is a South African group of television channels owned by Multichoice which provides sports content in South Africa and many other African countries. Among these include the PSL.

Along with the PSL, Supersport provides coverage of the Barclays Premier League (with it being the world's second biggest Premier League broadcaster), Bundesliga (mainly Bayern and Dortmund), Serie A and La Liga.

They provide full coverage of the F.A Cup, Capital One Cup, Copa Del Rey, UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Community Shield, CAF Champions League, CAF Confederations Cup, and the DFB Pokal amongst others which at various times, compete for viewership with the ABSA Premiership.

Because of all this exposure, fans will (rightly or wrongly) compare the Absa Premiership to other leagues and when doing so, will realize their shortcomings, particularly one that I think is the main reason for attendance (and viewership) decline.

Unlike other sports, football rewards fans by delaying the frequency of goals. For example; in cricket there are wickets and big hits and in rugby, there are tries and penalties. In football, the goal is the satisfactory culmination of the buildup of many minutes of play which may explain why attacking teams and free-scoring leagues are considered more entertaining than low-scoring ones.

Below are the stats of the Absa Premiership and the four highest viewed leagues that Supersport broadcasts:

ABSA Premiership
490 goals in 2017/18 season
240 games total in 2017/18 season
5021 average attendance per game.
2.04 goals per game.

380 games total in 2017/18 season
1018 goals in 2017/18 season
38,297 average attendance per match
2.67 goals per game

306 games total in 2017/18 season
855 goals in 2017/18 season
44,651 average attendance per match
2.79 goals per game

La Liga:
380 games played in 2017/18 season
1024 goals in 2017/18 season
26,968 average attendance per game
2.69 goals per game

Serie A:
380 games played in 2017/18 season
1017 goals in 2017/2018 season
24,738 average attendance per game
2.68 per game

Looking at the stats, one can see that the ABSA Premiership is clearly behind on the main determinant for entertainment being goals per game. One could argue that the Premiership plays less games therefore leading to less goals but for them to reach their closest competitor being the Bundesliga, they would have to have an average of 5.53 goals a game for sixty-six games and seeing that over a thirty game span, the league averages 2.04 goals a game, it would be highly unlikely to expect them to do that.

What is clear is that the ABSA Premiership is not of the same standard as the other four broadcast leagues.

One could argue that because Germany, Italy and England have larger populations, that they would rightly have higher attendances but that doesn’t explain why Spain, a country with eleven million less people has an attendance rate five times larger than South Africa.

Granted, one could argue that South Africa’s unemployment rate of 26.7 % affects its ability for fans to attend matches but when one considers the ticket prices of all five countries:

• average ticket price Germany - ten euros ( 155 rands)
• average ticket price Spain - 17 pounds (294 rands)
• average ticket price England - 30 pounds (518 rands)
• average ticket price Italy - 40 euros (623 rands)
• average ticket price South Africa – 40 rands (2.57 euro/2.32 pounds)

There really is no excuse for such low attendances except that the ABSA Premiership is just not as appealing as the other four leagues and as a result, there is no market for the league to thrive as the other four leagues have overtaken its popularity.

But despite all the statistics, the main reason I’d attribute to the decline of match attendance is that:

There is not enough value for money:
With the R1.6 billion deal signed by satellite provider Supersport for the rights to air the ABSA Premiership, they also signed an agreement with the SABC that allowed them to provide free reruns and radio coverage of games across the country.

If you think about it, there is no reason to actively go out to watch a match.

With the broadcast deal in effect, people can watch or listen to games within the comfort of wherever they are.

To add to that, the concession prices at stadiums are absolutely unacceptable. For those who drink, a beer will set you back R40.

Now I’d like you to picture two scenarios and decide which is more appealing.
A) You pay R40 to go to the game and you pay an extra R40 per beer, sit down and try to enjoy the game amongst families and kids whilst having to worry about leaving early to book a space in the concession line/bathroom.
B) You go to a local pub, pay roughly R20 a beer, get to hang out with the mates and arguably get a better atmosphere than the one you’d find at the stadium or
C) You watch the game within the comfort of your own home.

Which two sound more appealing?

Another issue specifically for fans of smaller teams is that many get the impression that their team is just spinning their wheels.

If a person was to take a look at the twenty-one year history of the Absa Premiership as it is now known, one would find that only four other teams (Manning Rangers, Santos, Supersport United and Bidvest Wits) have managed to dethrone the Big Three of Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns (with Supersport United being the most impressive of the lot, winning it a consecutive three times).

In 21 years, the ABSA Premiership has gone to four other teams a total of 6 times.

As fans, we can accept teams losing if they show signs of progression but if the team doesn’t care about winning, then there is no reason for the fans to care about the team and if on the rare chance that the team has to be bad, there have to be other things that can get the fans to care enough to come watch their games. This, coupled with the cost of living rising in South Africa makes it less enticing to go attend games.

Until the league administrators address these issues, no amount of cheap tickets will stop the declining attendance.

Sources include:


Attendance, Football Soccer, Soccer, South Africa

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author avatar Memba Ben
A fan's view on the business of football.

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