ISL 2017: NorthEast United FC give clarifications regarding low attendance figures and its reasons
Northeast United FC is not having the best of seasons this time around. Compared to last season, they have failed to win at home so far and that has not gone down well with the fans. Adding to the woes of the fans, the team has managed to score only two goals this season and that too in an away game in Delhi, which has left the home crowd high and dry and in search of goals.
To be honest, NEUFC have not had much success in ISL starting from the inaugural edition. But, it could still boast of having one of the best fans and the attendance figures always would be higher than 27000. In some cases, the figures would breach the 30000 mark while some would go to the extent of claiming that unofficial figures of NEUFC games are way above the 35000 mark.
But, this season the story has been different, with the Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium undergoing renovation for the world cup and with bucket seats being installed, only 23850 seats were available for NEUFC to use. It is still shocking to see the stadium not being filled even for one of the three games played so far.
While Guwahati witnessed 21000 people for the first game, only 16500 people turned up for the second game whereas only 10353 people came to witness yesterday’s game against Mumbai City FC.
When Sportskeeda questioned the club management regarding the low turnout, the management cited a couple of factors that lead to the attendance figures being reduced this season. The first thing is the transportation factor. As the game finished at around 10 at night, finding a public transport at that time of the night from the stadium towards the city is very difficult and private cab services like Ola and Uber charge inflated prices which turns out to be a matter of concern for the spectators. Plus finding or getting a Uber or an Ola is also very difficult given the demand for cabs exceeds the availability with a ratio of 3:1.
When we asked the officials regarding the steps they have taken to overcome this problem, the management said that an official email from the clubs side was sent to the transport minister and to the chairman of ASTC (Assam State Transport Corporation) on 6th December requesting them for additional buses after the final whistle during the match days, which could drop the spectators at some strategic location within the city.
So far, no official reply or stand has been received from the Transport Corporations office, which has added to the woes of the fans. The club though, has assured us that they will do everything possible to provide more busses and other transportation modes for the fans after the games. The club is also trying to speak with the bus owners to get them to ply buses after the game.
The second issue which has affected the attendance figures is a combination of transportation and timing. In previous seasons we have witnessed a host of fans making the journey to Guwahati from Shillong or Kokrajhar to see NEUFC play, nearly every NEUFC game for the past few seasons had witnessed around 5000 people turn up from various neighbouring parts of the city for the game, be it Shillong, Kokrajhar or for that matter even Bhutan. But this year, as the timings are such that these people won't be able to find proper transportation to return back home on the same day. The attendance has decreased, as now the cost of seeing a game will only increase for them, with added hotel expenses to watch their favourite team in action.
Another factor which has had an effect on the figures is the ongoing exams of many schools and colleges due to which a lot of young football fans and especially female football fans have not been able to come to the stadiums and cheer for their beloved team.
The management though, keeping in mind the above-mentioned points, admitted that the figures were way too low, as Guwahati itself has much more football fans. NEUFC also appreciated the 10353 people who turned up and supported the team at a time when it was most needed and also heaped praise on them for being loud and creating noise equivalent to 20000 people.
When asked about what they had to say about the fans who could have turned up but didn’t turn up, this is what a club official had to say.
“For the fans who didn’t turn up we call you out, just know that we know where you come from, and if you cannot support the club at a time when it needs your support the most, you don’t have the right to support us when we win, as we in all true sense don’t want just a group of glory hunters filling the stands.”
The official also praised the way the Highlanders Brigade cheered up the team after the defeat, as such support is the only way to bring the team back on the right track.