League Looks To Attract New Generation Of Supporters

The Football League has set itself a target of increasing attendances to 21 million by 2010.

League Chairman Sir Brian Mawhinney outlined the organisation's ambition as he revealed more detail about The League's re-branding at a press conference in London.

The 21 million target would constitute a 30% increase on the 2003/04 figure of almost 16 million ­ the highest aggregate attendance for 40 years ­ and Mawhinney believes the figure is possible as League clubs continue to build on recent success and a firmer financial base.

Mawhinney said: "In the last few seasons The Football League has faced one of the most challenging periods in its history. Its response has been a groundbreaking good governance strategy that has strengthened the financial position of clubs.

"Our focus now is turning to the future and our aim is to attract many new fans to our games. I think it is realistic that crowd levels could reach the 21m mark by 2010."

And Mawhinney revealed that during the next 12 months The League's re-branding strategies will also focus on strengthening the links between clubs and their communities, enhancing the club-supporter relationship, increasing the number of children playing football and delivering new commercial revenue for clubs.

He said: "Our clubs are the embodiment of community. In many cases they are the single biggest communal activity in their towns and cities. We want to enhance the value of each club to the families that live locally by delivering imaginative new partnerships between clubs, their communities and commercial sponsors.

"The first two community initiatives that The League will introduce are a new 'Fans League' to encourage vocal participation at games and a 'Community Cup' competition for primary schools with the final, hopefully, being played at the new Wembley Stadium from 2005/06."

The Fans League will see the set of supporters who provide the best encouragement to their team awarded points in traditional League format (3 points for a win etc), with the result being determined by an independent adjudicator. The teams at the top of each league at the end of each season will gain a cash reward which will be used to benefit the supporters.

The Community Cup schools competition will feature six-a-side teams of under 11's from more than 3000 schools and The League is currently seeking sponsors for both initiatives.

These latest announcements constitute the second stage of The League¹s re-branding process. The first stage was announced at its AGM in June and saw Division One, Two and Three renamed as The Championship, League 1 and League 2 respectively.

Mawhinney explained the reasoning behind the changes saying: ³The Football League exists primarily to organise excellent football competitions. Its re-branding process is designed to add to this skill by making The League an attractive and viable commercial entity in the marketplace.

"Prior to this, The League had not reviewed its public perception since 1988 ­ its centenary year. The intervening 15-year period has seen a significant reduction in the size of The Football League as a result of the formation of the FA Premier League. This development saw more money flowing to Premier League clubs, leading to greater financial disparity in the domestic game than ever before.

"This is an issue that The League had to address. We have done this, firstly by initiating an agenda of good governance reforms to bring financial stability to clubs. Secondly, we are targeting increased revenues for member clubs through a re-branding strategy that focuses attention on the pinnacle of our competition, The Championship. In choosing to re-brand our top echelon as The Championship we are re-establishing the historic name of our competition."

He added: "The Football League will continue to provide real football for real fans. That is essentially what we are about."