Huge Newcastle United home crowds in the Championship have contributed to the rise in league attendances (Getty Images)

(WFI) English Football League chiefs announce that total attendances at matches last season broke the seventeen million mark for the first time in 50 years.

A total of 17.1m supporters attended the 1,656 league matches played during 2009/10, an increase of 4.4% on last season. It’s the highest aggregate crowd figure since the 1959/60 campaign.

The Football League, which includes the Championship, League 1 and League 2, said gates have more than doubled during the last 25 years, with average crowds now higher than 10,000.

The Championship, the second tier in English football after the Premier League, has retained its place as the fourth most watched league in Europe with a total audience of more than 9.9m fans. Crowds grew by 0.3% this season and averaged 17,949.

Only Germany’s Bundesliga (13.1m), the Premier League (12.9m) and Spain’s La Liga (11.0m) get more fans through the turnstiles. The Football League’s top division attracts more supporters than Italy’s Serie A (9.1m) and France’s Ligue 1 (7.6m).

Crowds for matches in League 1 and League 2 averaged 9,136 and 3,853 respectively; attendances rose a staggering 21% in League 1.

Commenting on the figures revealed today, Football League chairman Greg Clarke said: “Attracting more than seventeen million fans into their grounds is an outstanding achievement by Football League clubs, particularly in the current economic climate.

“Our clubs are focussed on attracting a new, family audience to football and those efforts are clearly working.

“I would like to thank everybody that has been to one of our matches this season for supporting their club and our competition.”

His comments coincided with the news that Coca-Cola has extended its sponsorship of the league for another three years. It will be the official soft drink of The Football League.

Football League commercial director Stewart Thomson, said: “During six years as our title sponsor, Coca-Cola have made an exceptional contribution to our competition. We are delighted that they have committed to continuing that successful relationship by becoming an official partner of The Football League.”

Blackpool and Cardiff City do battle on Saturday in the Coca-Cola Play-Off Final. With the winners promoted to the Premier League, it’s billed as the biggest game in English football. The match is estimated to be worth more than £60 million to the victors with the EPL TV money and other income that will flow into their coffers next season.

Blackpool have not played in the top division since 1971, while Cardiff’s last appearance there came in 1962.

FIFA admits ticketing mistakes for 2010 World Cup
FIFA has promised to overhaul the ticketing system for the Brazil 2014 world Cup following mistakes made in distributing tickets for this summer’s tournament in South Africa.

Jerome Valcke, FIFA secretary general, admitted that world football’s governing body was wrong to organise online ticketing sales for the domestic market because of the lack of internet access among the largely poor black population of football fans. He said it was “not perfect for South Africa and for Africa”.

Over-the-counter ticketing were only launched last month in the nine host cities in a desperate attempt to boost flagging sales.

“For Brazil we say that we have to rethink and we will work on all the ticketing policies from scratch for 2014 because I agree that it could be that we are facing the same kind of situation in Brazil as in South Africa,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying at a press gathering in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Valcke estimated that only about 40,000 out of the 2.86 million tickets available had so far been sold to fans from other parts of the African continent.

With 20 days until the World Cup opens at Soccer City in Johannesburg, there are still about 200,000 tickets still to be sold. Valcke indicated that FIFA wanted to achieve sales of 95 percent.

Amid fears of empty seats at host stadia, FIFA has extended the cheap $20 category 4 tickets to countries neighbouring South Africa. Free buses are also to be laid on to transport people from outlying regions near the host cities of Polokwane, Nelspruit and Port

FIFA’s Jerome Valcke says ticketing changes will come for the Brazil 2014 World Cup (Getty Images)

Elizabeth to ensure bigger crowds.

Carlsberg signs Euro 2012 sponsorship
Carlsberg has become the fifth global partner of UEFA’s 2012 European Championships that will be co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.

The announcement is an extension of their long-term sponsorship agreement for UEFA’s flagship national-team competition that dates back to 1988.

Adidas, Castrol, Coca-Cola and Hyundai-Kia are the other Euro 2012 sponsors.

Under the deal, Carlsberg will benefit from exclusive marketing rights for alcoholic beverages within the host venues. Carlsberg will also benefit from global marketing rights for the 2011 European U-21 Championship in Denmark.

“With Euro 2012 we cement our many years of loyalty to, and enthusiasm for, premium European football,” said Jørgen Buhl Rasmussen, CEO of Carlsberg Group. “EURO 2012 is not only a milestone for Carlsberg, being an official sponsor for almost a quarter of a century, but excitingly it is also the first ever UEFA EURO to be hosted in eastern Europe.

“The interest and tradition for football in the host countries, with a total of over 80 million inhabitants, is enormous and therefore we are thrilled to be part of this exciting tournament,” Buhl Rasmussen added.

David Taylor, CEO of UEFA Events SA, said: “The imagery behind the UEFA Euro 2012 logo represents a plant that grows and grows – the same goes for the relationship between Carlsberg and the UEFA European Championship.”

FIFA ban Egypt playing Cairo

FIFA has imposed a ban on the Egyptian Football Association from playing the country’s first two home matches of 2014 World Cup qualifying in Cairo following the crowd violence that flared at the Egypt vs Algeria 2010 World Cup qualifier last November.

Egypt must play these games at a stadium at least 100km from the capital city. FIFA’s disciplinary committee also fined the Egyptian FA $86,838.

FIFA said Egyptian FA had failed to take all the necessary security precautions to ensure the safety of the Algerian delegation, as well as security and order in the Cairo International Stadium for the match between the fierce rivals on Nov. 14.

There were several stabbings and at least 32 people were injured in the aftermath of Saturday’s game.

FIFA noted in particular that the Egyptian FA had not adopted the “necessary measures” to prevent an assault on the Algerian team bus on the way from the airport to the hotel two days before the match. The bus windows were smashed and four members of the Algerian delegation, including three players, were injured.

FIFA decided to take no action about crowd problems at the second leg of the 2010 World Cup play-off between Algeria and Egypt held in Sudan on Nov. 18.

UEFA dismisses Ukrainian ref appeal

UEFA rejected the appeal by Ukrainian referee Oleg Oriehkov against a life ban from all football activities. UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Body barred Oriehkov from football on March 18 when it examined the case and information from ongoing investigations by German police into match-fixing and corruption across Europe.

He was found guilty of being in breach of the principles of loyalty and integrity under Article 5 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations.

UEFA president Michel Platini has promised to punish all those involved in what is described as “the biggest match-fixing scandal ever”.

European football’s governing body launched a probe into 40 fixtures in September. They were among the 200 games across Europe that German prosecutors have been investigatating for match-fixing.

UEFA has been assisting German police and authorities with its Betting Fraud Detection System, which monitors some 29,000 games across Europe, including all UEFA competition matches as well as all first and second division, and national cup matches across its 53 member associations.

Birmingham to visit Bird’s Nest
The Premier League’s Birmingham City will be the first English club to play at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium, the showpiece venue of the 2008 Olympic Games.

On a pre-season tour, they will play Chinese champions Beijing Guoan at the 80,000-seat stadium on July 21.

The Beijing fixture was part of a promise made by the club’s owner, Hong Kong tycoon Carson Yeung, who is the first Chinese to own an EPL club. Birmingham City also play Liaoning at Shenyang’s 60,000-seat stadium, which was also constructed for the 2008 Games.

reporting from WFI editor Mark Bisson (
[email protected])

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