Loyal crowds galvanising top clubs against the recession

TOP FLIGHT clubs have again demonstrated their ability to resist the effects of the downturn by posting strong attendance figures for the start of the season.<br /><br />Experts had expected clubs to feel the pinch more than ever in the current campaign, the first since Britain officially entered recession in January.<br /><br />But Premier League outfits have continued to pack out their stadia, with grounds more than 90 per cent full for the 16th season in a row, according to figures compiled by Deloitte. Up to the end of September top flight stadia were 91.3 per cent full, compared to 91.7 for the whole of last season. The figures are particularly encouraging since attendances typically rise later in the campaign.<br /><br />&ldquo;Clubs were acutely aware that the real effects would start to be felt in the 2009/10 season,&rdquo; said Dan Jones, partner in Deloitte&rsquo;s Sport Business Group. &ldquo;The strong attendances achieved at the start of the season will provide a welcome degree of comfort.&rdquo;<br /><br />More than three quarters of top tier clubs froze or reduced ticket prices this season. The figures suggest the strategy has paid off, with Manchester City and Blackburn the best performers, achieving more than 10 per cent increases for the first six weeks of the season.<br /><br />Domestic attendances are not the only signs that football is resistant to the the downturn. Gates for European matches have shown a slight increase, with average attendances for the first two rounds of the Champions League group stage up five per cent from last year. <br /><br />Manchester United and Liverpool have both agreed lucrative new shirt sponsorship deals this year, while the most recent domestic broadcast deal, announced in February, was worth four per cent more than the last.<br />