Melissa Rudd: Easy access is great for couch potatoes but not for clubs
PUBLISHED: 12:00 29 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:12 29 November 2018
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As temperatures plummet and the grip of winter takes hold, you had to be a pretty hardcore fan to have made the 300-mile round trip to Hull on Tuesday night.
That was especially so given that, as of this season, you can watch live action from the comfort of your own home. Yet I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of guilt watching a goalless draw from the warmth of my living room.
The travelling 1,100-plus Norwich fans who trekked up north for the game comprised almost 10pc of the overall crowd. The attendance of 11,420 was Hull’s second lowest for a league fixture at the KCOM Stadium.
The dreadful weather was almost certainly a reason why more Hull fans didn’t turn up, but for some it wouldn’t have been a choice between seeing the game and not.
There are wider issues surrounding the ownership of Hull which have specifically contributed to their falling gates in recent seasons, but up and down the country the luxury of being able to watch any game live on television must be affecting Championship attendances.
There has always been a drop-off in crowds between Saturday and midweek fixtures, but research by The Times newspaper last month found that they had fallen by almost nine per cent for the first three rounds of midweek games. That’s twice the amount of the previous campaign, at a time when the most miserable winter months lay ahead.
Even now when I head to an evening game I’m reminded of my first ever visit to Carrow Road on a freezing cold Tuesday night in February 1996. It has stayed with me two decades on. Would my dad have taken me if we could have watched it at home? Perhaps not. It’s sad to think there might be others missing out on the same football under-the-lights experience that got me hooked as a six-year-old.
Using Carrow Road as an example, this time last season home midweek fixtures against QPR in August and Wolves in October both attracted over 26,000 fans. This season wins over Preston and Aston Villa were both watched by fewer than 25,000.
The atmosphere in Hull on Tuesday was akin to an Under 21s game as almost 14,000 seats remained empty, and it certainly seemed to negatively impact a match which was instantly forgettable.
It was a surprise that Daniel Farke’s charges fired blanks given their goalscoring exploits of late. Scoring four against Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall and most recently Swansea has made for a fantastic few weeks as a Canary, so this was a tad disappointing.
It was a cruel irony that Tom Trybull missed the best chance of the game given the player he was deputising for has been so influential of late. Moritz Leitner’s creativity was sorely missed in the middle of the park as Trybull and Alex Tettey struggled to force openings against a determined Hull defence.
It is perhaps the biggest yardstick of City’s improvement that a midfielder who was one of the first on the team sheet for much of the first half of last season is having to make do as a reserve this time around. Leitner has played a key role in helping Norwich become such an attacking threat and hopefully the calf problem that ruled him out the other night is short-lived.
One thing is for sure though, if Trybull had found the net, celebrating that header in front of a television screen would have no way compared to doing so amidst the travelling support at the KCOM.
City now have to forget about a frustrating evening on Humberside and focus on getting a better result on Saturday against another team battling at the wrong end of the table. Only Millwall have won fewer points than Rotherham - but we all know how close that encounter was at Carrow Road.