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It’s one of the most predictable jokes out there.

Every time Wigan Athletic have been summoned to appear on the box, social media likes to pick up on the empty seats littered about the DW Stadium. Cue the jokes about Wigan fans dressing up as seats and portraying the sad, lonely image of around eleven fans turning up for the match.

Approaching Wigan Athletic's DW Stadium

Approaching Wigan Athletic’s DW Stadium

And after the FA’s announcement that Wigan were to return around 10,000 tickets for the weekends semi-final against Millwall, social media and message boards around the country were churning out the same, tired jokes.

The Best Ever Book of Wigan Athletic Jokes - AllegedlyBut is it all a bit unfair on Wigan? Are Wigan slowly but surely turning into the bullying boys in the proverbial Premier League school ground? Call me boring, but I think they are. And it’s all a bit unjustified.

The mass return of tickets would have been a bitter blow for the FA, but it still reads well for Wigan fans. With a 31,000 allocation for both fans, Wigan have still sold around 20,000 tickets. A respectable amount when you look at the figures.

The first figure is the town’s population. Wigan is a relatively small town nestled in Greater Manchester with a population of around 80,000. This means that around a quarter of the Wigan town’s population are heading down to London to proudly cheer their team on. Pretty respectable don’t you think?

The problem with Wigan is its location. It’s around 16 miles North-West from Manchester, home of one of the most successful teams in the world. That means that that Wigan’s catchment area is pretty poor. In 1995, when fan Dave Whelan bought the club, Wigan were floating helplessly in the fourth tier of English football. At the same time United were winning yet another title as the Fergie regime was in full motion. It’s easy to see why the folk of Wigan would have worn the red instead of blue.

Another problem is that Wigan isn’t necessarily a football town. It’s predominantly a rugby town, with Wigan Warriors being one of the most prolific teams in the sport. Last year, the Wigan Warriors had an average attendance of 16,000, the highest in the league for the third season in a row. However, the joke books are normally kept shut in regards to rugby league.

The second figure I want to look at is Wigan Athletics’ average attendance. For 2012, the DW Stadium saw an average attendance of 18,634. It appears low, but it’s not bad considering the factors discussed. In fact, it’s not even the lowest in the league. That honour goes to QPR.

But it is an ever-increasing average. It’s more than 10 times as much as it was back in ’95, and 6000 more than 7 years ago when Wigan first broke into the Premier League. And with Roberto Martinez attempting to build up the squad, there is potential for that figure to grow.

Martinez leapt to the fan’s defence regarding the semi-final and rightly so. Football is expensive and we are in bad economic times. Not only will fans have to pay for tickets, they have to fork out for travel, food and drink etc. It all adds up. Throw into the mix the fact that the late kick off meant that the fans struggled to catch their last train home. And they now have to do it all again for the final, although I’m sure very few of them will mind very much.

So there’s a little plea for the public to take a step back, assess the situation and maybe see that Wigan fans aren’t too bad. After all, they probably have feelings too. Or maybe I’m just grumpy.

Post written by Craig Lishman
Blog: craiglishman.wordpress.com, Twitter: @CraigLishman

Image Credits
DW Stadium Approach © Anthony Reily Photography

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