Sport
The Hive Barnet FC stadium

How have attendances at non-league football clubs in north London bounced back from COVID?

Attendances at non-league football clubs across the north London area underwent a significant increase after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the 2021/22 season. 

Barnet, Enfield Town, Wingate & Finchley, Boreham Wood, and Harrow Borough all saw more fans pass through the turnstiles than in any season since 2018/19, as non-league attendance across the seven clubs went up by 55.3%. 

Haringey Borough also saw increased attendances from last season, whilst Hendon were the only side to record a lower attendance in 2021/22 than the previous season. 

A graph to show the fluctuation in non-league attendances at north London football clubs across seven seasons

But it was Enfield Town who enjoyed the best season statistically, winning 26 out of 42 and taking a point from 76% of their Isthmian Premier League games as they saw a 64% increase in spectators this season. 

Club chairman Paul Reed said: “I think supporters became a little disillusioned with the high prices of the Premier League, the aborted Super League, and the stale atmospheres. 

“Many have turned to their local non-league clubs and have enjoyed a good standard of football at a fair price in a safe environment, as I think people saw non-league as safer as they could socially distance more easily.

“We were allowed limited crowds and I think this attracted new supporters to the game looking for their football fix, many enjoyed themselves and have returned post-lockdown.

“We have also benefited from a younger local fanbase, which has led to great atmospheres at games and I’ve even heard of the Enfield/Cheshunt rivalry replacing the Arsenal/Spurs one in some playgrounds!”

Town even made it as far as the play-off semi finals, where they were eventually beaten by Hornchurch in the final minute of the game, having finished the season in third place. 

Enfield suffered the heartbreak of defeat in the final minute of their play-off semi final against Hornchurch FC

On-field performances undoubtedly encouraged more fans through the doors as restrictions eased, and Town will hope to build on this next season as they continue to push for promotion into the Vanarama National South division in 2022/23. 

Although each of the seven sides from north London were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, it was Vanarama National League sides Boreham Wood and Barnet that saw the biggest attendance drop off.

Boreham Wood’s figures dropped from 1322 in 2019/20 to 650 in 2020/21, and Barnet suffered an even greater reduction from 1699 to 750 in the same period. 

But Boreham Wood saw a 61.6% increase in spectators after a fairy tale FA Cup run, beating professional sides AFC Wimbledon and AFC Bournemouth, before finally losing at Everton in March, and their attendance figures reached their highest in at least six seasons.

Boreham Wood’s fairytale FA Cup run was finally ended by Premier League side Everton On March 3

The Wood finished ninth, seven points from the playoffs, whilst fellow National League side Barnet had a more moderate season, winning just 13 of 44 games and sitting in 18th.

The Bees are tied with Wingate & Finchley for second fewest wins (13) and had the second most losses (20) but are third for most draws (11), despite being historically the highest-achieving of the sides. 

Prior to the introduction of stadium restrictions due to the pandemic, Barnet experienced a dip in attendances from 3128 to 1683 after the 2017/18 following their relegation from League Two into non-league football. 

Isthmian Premier League side Haringey had the least productive season with just nine victories, but registered one fewer defeat (18) than Wingate & Finchley, despite finishing seven points behind their rivals. 

But Wingate won five more games than Haringey, with eight of their 13 wins coming in 2022, though the Blues drew five fewer than Borough’s 15 and lost one more than their rival’s tally of 18. 

Southern Premier Division – South team Hendon suffered the second most defeats (23) and had the fewest draws (five), while league rivals Harrow Borough had the most losses (20) and third fewest draws (7) despite winning 15 games, increasing their average attendance by just one this season. 

Featured image credit: Katie Chan, accesed https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:London_Bees%27s_The_Hive_Stadium_(04).jpg

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