Thursday 14 November 2019

Revealed: The attendance figures for the GAA Football championships are a cause for concern

Empty seats at the Leinster final between Dublin and Westmeath
Empty seats at the Leinster final between Dublin and Westmeath
GAA director general Páraic Duffy Photo: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Attendances at the All-Ireland football championships are in sharp decline, having dropped by 28pc over the last decade and by 16pc over the last five years.

Excluding replays, the total turnout this season was the lowest since 2000, the year before the qualifiers and quarter-finals were introduced.

At 788,746, the 2016 total was down over 100,000 (11pc) on last year. The peak was reached in 2003 when almost 1.2m watched the football action. It remained over the one million mark until 2010.

Since then it has dropped every year except 2015, reaching its lowest this season. The big attractions are in more demand than ever, but there has been a considerable drop-off for qualifiers, while Dublin's overwhelming dominance in Leinster for so long has seriously weakened the eastern market.

GAA director general Páraic Duffy has included the attendance figures since the turn of the Millennium in his revised Championship restructuring blueprint, which was circulated to counties this week.

He is recommending that the quarter-finals be replaced by two groups of four, playing off in round-robin format.

County chairmen will discuss the document on Saturday, with Central Council deciding a week later whether to bring the proposals to next year's Congress for formal consideration.

Four replays - including the sell-out Dublin-Mayo All-Ireland final - boosted this year's overall football attendances by 136,000, taking them to 924,746.

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