Albion had won seven of their previous eight league games at The Hawthorns in the run-up to their last home fixture, but the attendance still only nudged just over 24,000...writes Matt Wilson.
The Baggies were sitting eighth in the Premier League, on course for their best season in more than 30 years, and yet there were at least 2,800 empty seats – probably more if you include those who had tickets but didn’t make it.
During the first half of the season, attendances were dismal and the gate of 21,467 for the December game with Swansea was a club low in the Premier League.
Last season’s grind to safety under Tony Pulis was a large contributing factor to that sharp decline with many stayaways citing the head coach’s style as the reason behind their absence.
This stunning season has encouraged a few people to return during the second half of the campaign, and the club were pleased with the Crystal Palace attendance because they offered fewer complimentary tickets for that game than they had all season.
But the Baggies are still some way away from selling out The Hawthorns and it’s now clear that results and performances are not the only factors at play.
Apathy is spreading among supporters because of a number of reasons. In their first season in the Premier League, Albion sold out nearly every game and the average attendance was 26,731 despite the team getting relegated.
But familiarity breeds contempt. The Baggies are now in their seventh successive season in the top tier and it’s getting boring.
Attendances have been dwindling for the past few years, dropping from an average of 25,327 in 2012/13 to 24,631 last season. Season ticket sales fell from 19,300 to 17,925 across the same period.
Football clubs are also facing a new battle, because supporters have changed the way they watch the game.
Every Premier League game, 3pm kick-off or otherwise, is now available on a live stream if you know where to look, there are goal packages sent straight to mobile phones and in-depth highlights on Sky Sports each night.
The armchair is looking increasingly comfortable.
This saturation doesn’t help either. Football, particularly Premier League football, is now an all-consuming behemoth that is constantly in the news, on our television sets and all over social media.
What used to be a way to escape the hum-drum of the world has now engulfed so much of our lives that it is football people sometimes wish to escape from.
The Premier League used to hit back against questions over ticket prices with the boast that every stadium was more than 95 per cent full, but that is no longer the case this season for six teams in the league (Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Hull, Southampton, Burnley and Albion).
But only Sunderland and Hull – who are disillusioned with their owners – fill less of their stadium than the Baggies.
Albion’s new regime know they have an issue on their hands, chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman both outlined the need to halt this decline when they arrived.
Nor have they been idle this season, offering discounted tickets for several games so far.
In fact, some weekends, it’s been cheaper to watch the Baggies than a National League game, and several local schools have benefited from complimentary tickets through club charity the Albion Foundation in an effort to create supporters for the future.
But season tickets make up the bulk of the gate and that is the market that needs addressing.
The club are releasing their prices for the next campaign in the first half of April.
Considering the dwindling attendances, and the bumper TV deal coming into play at the end of this season, freezing the prices will be the minimum expectation.Subscribe to our Newsletter