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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Premier League probes crowd slump
Newcastle striker Michael Owen scores against Blackburn last Sunday but there was a noticeable lack of fans at Ewood Park  for the game
Premier League chiefs will stage a special meeting to study whether rising ticket prices and television coverage have contributed to falling crowds.

The attendance working group, headed by chief executive Richard Scudamore, will deal with concerns from chairmen.

Blackburn chairman John Williams, a member of the group, said: "We have to do something now because by the time you see the bandwagon it's too late."

Their attendance against Newcastle on Sunday was 9,000 fewer than last term.

Williams added: "We in the Premier League have had 10 great years, a fantastic success story, but we are certainly going through the doldrums now.

"Richard Scudamore is going to reconstitute the working group and it's time to sit down and go through a whole plethora of things that might be done.

"The wheels have not come off but the product does need a good service - it needs tweaking rather than major surgery."

Williams believes a combination of factors including saturation television coverage, tickets prices, negative tactics and predictable results are behind the fall in attendances.

Sports minister Richard Caborn said he too was concerned by the fall in numbers.

Caborn said: "I'm pleased the Premier League has taken this initiative, and the working party is going to have to look at whether clubs are pricing fans out of going to matches.

"One also has to question how much football there is on television and whether it's undermining attendances. I believe there is clear evidence that is the case."

Caborn added that football now had greater competition for fans from other sports, particularly in the first two months of the season from cricket and both rugby codes.

The working party will report any proposals to the next meeting of Premier League chairmen in November.

However, the Premier League remains optimistic and it points out that there were worries about attendances at this point last season but that overall the clubs operated at a 94.2% occupancy rate compared to 93.7% in the 2002-03 season.

Those figures are considerably higher than in Spain and Germany, despite prices in those countries being significantly lower.

A spokesman said: "It's very early in the season to take any sort of meaningful analysis from these statistics."




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