CYPRUS: Attendance at football games was down 40% last season

Last season Cypriot football crowds dwindled by 40% compared to attendances the previous year, with ticket sales plunging from 414,651 to 259,722, according to Cyprus Football Association data.

All clubs saw their crowds diminish as ticket sales dropped by an average 40%. Champions APOEL were first in ticket sales with just 67,702 tickets sold, followed by rivals Omonia FC with 60,223 tickets sold throughout last season. Traditionally these two major teams sell well over 100,000 tickets each.

Despite the 2018-19 season having fewer matches as the first division included 12 teams compared to the previous season’s 14, the drop is attributed mainly to the introduction of the ‘fan card’.

The fan card was designed to clamp down on football violence, however, clubs have been arguing that dwindling attendances and lack of safe stadia make the scheme unworkable.

Recently 10 out of 12 first division clubs have asked the state to temporarily lift the scheme until stadia meet the criteria of the scheme.

The card was introduced in a desperate bid by the state and the football authorities to stamp out hooliganism which had gotten out of hand.

Fans objected to being placed on a register controlled by the CFA, tickets cannot be bought without first getting a card � this has caused delays at stadiums as people waited to be issued with one before buying a ticket.

Furthermore, fans disliked the strict penalties introduced under legislation accompanying the introduction of the card. A fan could go to jail for shouting insults at the referee, a common practice at local football games.

Even though stadia were almost empty last season with the fan card directly blamed for low attendances as the majority of supporters stayed away in protest at the card’s introduction, the government appears to be adamant on keeping the card in place.

Cyprus parliament had launched a discussion on ways of making the card more effective while bringing people back to the sport.

However, as MPs could not reach a consensus over the matter, discussion and further action was postponed until September, after the parliamentary recess.

Tickets sold by the top six teams in 2018-19 season:

APOEL: 67,702

??????: 60,223

APOLLON: 39,334

ANORTHOSI: 29,273

AEL: 25,023

???: 10,756

Source: The Financial Mirror