Why Are Premier League Crowds So Quiet?

alex ferguson yawn Why Are Premier League Crowds So Quiet?

Watching last night’s match on television between Manchester United and Portsmouth, I was dumbfounded by the lengthy periods of silence I heard from the crowd of 74,895 at Old Trafford.

Sure, this is nothing new. Sir Alex Ferguson has described the atmosphere created by the Old Trafford fans as a funeral before, but come on, before the match kicked off, Manchester United were in second place in the league (only on goal difference), had two games in hand and would take a commanding lead in the Premier League if they won last night (which they did, 2-0).

Portsmouth isn’t the most exciting opponent, but Pompey put on a spirited performance especially in the first half and weren’t afraid of pushing forward to attack against a Manchester United side who were slow out on the starting blocks.

Nadir Belhadj was, without a doubt, the best player on the pitch for Portsmouth. The Algerian left winger wasn’t intimidated by United and went on some mazzy runs that almost created some good chances in and near the United box. This is exactly the type of player you need in your side. He’s entertaining. He never gives up. All he’s missing right now is that perfect delivery of the final ball — whether it’s a cross or shot.

But going back to the crowd at United, this was an embarrassing night for supporters of Manchester United in terms of atmosphere. Compare the noise between Old Trafford last night and Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium in their game last weekend against Blackburn Rovers. Stoke had a capacity crowd of 27,500 — approximately three times smaller than the crowd at Old Trafford. Yet the atmosphere in Stoke-On-Trent is incredible and really has been a twelfth man for Stoke City this season.

Turning our attention to the Champions League, I always find it interesting to see what a marked difference there is between the passion that football fans show during Champions League games compared to Premier League games. Now that EPL sides playing each other are quite common in the semi-finals of the Champions League, it’s easy to compare the match atmosphere in those games against the same match-ups in the Premier League.

For me, the match atmosphere in Champions League games between English clubs is far greater than in Premier League matches.

Of course, the Premier League season is a marathon, not a sprint — and runs for 38 weeks. In the Champions League, many of the matches are do-or-die encounters where a team must win or draw to have a hope of advancing to the next round. So because there’s more at risk regarding the possibility of getting knocked out of the round, the supporters seem to get more excited and are more up for games. Added to that is the romance of playing in Europe and the dream of seeing your club lift the Champions League trophy. After all, defeating Real Madrid or Barcelona in a European final is a lot more enticing than playing Portsmouth on a Wednesday night in Manchester.

Despite all of this, Premier League crowds should be noisier than they are. You can see how much it means for supporters of Stoke City and Hull City that their club remains in the Premier League. But for supporters of Manchester United, they’ve been spoilt and have much higher expectations. Visitors to Old Trafford are also handicapped by stricter stewards than at other Premier League crowds. Plus the high cost of tickets has led to the gentrification of football supporters in the ground and across the league.

Manchester United supporters are not the only ones to blame for the quiet atmospheres in the Premier League. Anfield had especially been quiet earlier in the season when Liverpool kept on drawing at home against weaker opposition. Plenty of other grounds have been quiet this season too during games.

Perhaps the best hope for better atmospheres next season in the Premier League comes from the Championship sides who are in the running to get promoted. These are clubs who will not take playing in the Premier League for granted. Wolves, already promoted, can be loud — despite the Molineux Stadium being too far removed from the pitch. Plus there’s always the Birmingham derby between Wolves and Aston Villa to look forward to, which will raise the decibel levels. Speaking of second city derbies, Birmingham City also have a loud supporter base at St. Andrews. Plus, Cardiff City, Sheffield United, Reading, Burnley and Swansea are all in the running to get promoted — and all have very vocal supporters.

What do you think? Why are Premier League crowds so quiet? Click the comments link below and share your opinion.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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10 Responses to Why Are Premier League Crowds So Quiet?

  1. Steve says:

    What’s that? Watched it on television you say? Right. Says it all really.

  2. Mick says:

    Stop picking on the Huge Manchester United, they are a well supported club in China!!
    That is the main problem at the so called big 4 clubs, their so called fans are from all corners of the world and when in England on holiday they want to go and watch Man U, the Arse etc.
    Clubs like Stoke City (who were stupidly load when I went this year) have a local club passion, the supporters mainly come from the local area. This I’m affraid will never happen again at Man U and at McTrafford.

  3. TubesSCFC says:

    As a Stoke fan, I’ve been surprised by the lack of atmosphere at away grounds. Sure, Stoke are not the most exciting prospect, but the noise at several of the grounds this season has been dismal. Anfield, Goodison, Old Trafford were all like library’s. At Middlesboro you could have heard a pin drop, the only singing of any kind accompanying the music piped in over the PA when they scored. St James’s got nowhere near the self proclaimed intimidating atmosphere we had been led to expect.

    It’s not a phenomenon I’ve noticed further down the leagues, I’ve seen several league two matches this season where the crowds have spent the entire game singing, even if the volumes they can reach are much lower than those more well supported clubs are capable of. It seems to be a premiership thing. I’ve heard a lot of clubs who have claimed it’s “mid-table syndrome”; sitting in mid-table for season on end with no real hope of winning anything. However this season, you’d be hard pushed to find more than a few clubs who really haven’t had anything to play for, with the relegation race being so wide open and the scramble for European places equally so.

    For me, it’s the gentrification of the game that is to blame, the Sky culture that has bred so much supporter apathy. I just hope Stoke City don’t succumb to it in a few seasons time.

  4. mk says:

    have to agree with mick on this one.
    ticket prices are too high, many in the crowd are tourists from across the globe who might call themselves supporters but actually have no idea about the club or its chants….
    plus there are just too many strict rules in epl grounds. come watch a bundesliga game, u’ll have 5000 hardcore fans making noise 24/7 inspires the neutrals to help out chanting….

  5. Dave says:

    Haven’t Manchester United supporters been known for almost a decade as the “Prawn Sandwich Brigade?” And yet on one night when they seem a little quiet, they are somehow representative of *every* crowd in the EPL?

    You might have a point about smaller clubs having louder crowds, but isn’t this a bit of a stretch?

  6. olivert says:

    Mick wrote:

    > Stop picking on the Huge Manchester United, they are a well supported club in China!!

    Exactly.

    The majority of Man Utd’s working class supporters now live 8 time zones away from Old Trafford, in Hong Kong, Singapore, Guangzhou, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, etc.

    Ticket prices for Premier League matches have reached the point where working class supporters in the UK cannot afford them.

    Notice that the Man Utd-Liverpool and Man Utd-Arsenal heavyweight bouts in the Premier League now kick off at 1245 British Summer Time (GMT+1), which translates to 1945, or prime time, in the GMT+8 time zone.

  7. tony says:

    it’s the management at old traffords fault. they want unrowdy. they don’t want people standing and blocking others…well that means boring. add this to the fact that manchester united plays more like chess than ps3 shooter and you get silence.

  8. AtlantaPompey says:

    You use ManU’s Prawn Sandwich Brigade as an example of Premier League Crowds, yet use Stoke & Hull, both Premier League sides, as examples of the opposite? I would wager that the bigger clubs, with their larger followings, international fanbase that doesn’t understand the club’s songs and traditions, and desire for calm and control during the match don’t get anywhere near the noise you could hear at The Stadium of Light, KC Stadium, or, my personal favorite, Fratton Park. All Premier League sides with noisy crowds. You are really complaining about the so-called Big Four, not the entire Premier League.

    Want to hear a crowd? Watch our next home match. Watch us at Newcastle on Monday night when just a few thousand people travel the entire length of England to sing: “PLAY UP POMPEY!!! POMPEY PLAY UP!!!

  9. numquammoribimur says:

    as a proud strtford end season ticket holder at OT, i have witnessed the demise of the atmosphere at the once intimidating stadium.

    firstly, we were converted to an all seater stadium, this means every1 sat down n started enjoyin the footy instead of standin shoulder to shoulder with ur pals.
    secondly, manchester city council force the stewards to get all the fans to sit down.
    thirdly, success means that player wage bills rise. this means ticket prices rise, this means the workin class manc can no longer afford his ticket. this leads to tourists and daytrippers who want to be entertained by the best team in the world.
    finally, the glazer taeover was the final straw for many hardcore united fans, we lost around 4000 of our hardcore support who created FC United of manchester.
    still on euro nights n derby matches there is still a good atmosphere and on special matches like the second half against spurs this season.
    i might be slightly biased but i think that we have one of the best sets of away fans in the country, this proves there is still passion at united.

    • Theo Baxter says:

      I am also a stretford end season ticket holder and am very disappointed at the home supoort, especially in the last five years apart from the stretty, which still gives a good backing. I agree about our away support though, it’s fantastic and without doubt one of the loudest in the country. However, big games especially Liverpool, the atmosphere is top class everywhere, just wish people would stand up and get behind the lads(apart from stretty) for other games than the big four.

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