The NI Football League has celebrated another year of extraordinary growth with a 32% increase of fans through the turnstiles at games this season.
The drama of the 2021/22 Danske Bank Premiership may have just concluded last week, but it will certainly live long in the memory of supporters across all clubs.
Just as the players delivered on the pitch, there was something special building off the pitch as 328,529 fans returned to Irish League stadiums after the disappointment of a Covid enforced exile, with most Irish League games played restricted numbers or behind closed doors during the previous campaign.
NI Football League Chief Executive, Gerard Lawlor stated; “The message is simply a massive thank you to our fans, you’ve come back in your numbers and reinforced to us how important your role is in the success of our league.”
“The growth in attendances is testament to the great work of the clubs and the increased professional approach throughout the league. Playing behind closed doors was difficult for everyone and thankfully we showed how strong and resilient Irish League football is to bounce back, and once again highlight the hugely important role our clubs play in their communities.
The BetMcLean League Cup Final was also confirmed as the highest attendance of any domestic match in Northern Ireland with a competition record 11,103 attendees in the National Stadium in March to witness Cliftonville’s dramatic win over Coleraine.
Gerard Lawlor added; “The League Cup Final was an amazing day, and one that will be talked about for years to come. We showed through the efforts of our competing clubs and staff that a combination of sensible ticket pricing, good marketing and knowing what our fans want can turn our big games into bigger events that everyone wants to be involved in.”
“We have a blueprint now for what works for our finals, and we will continue to work hard to deliver for our supporters and our clubs.”
The final total of 328,529 attendees for Premiership games marked a 32% increase from the last full unrestricted season (2018/2019) and an average of 1,440 fans per game across the twelve Premiership clubs – the highest figures since attendances started being officially recorded in 2008.
Increased fan engagement by clubs and the growth of both digital & traditional media coverage of the Irish League has supported major increases with notable attendance growth at Coleraine (+47%), Glentoran (+59%) and Warrenpoint Town (+75%).