Why Portsmouth and Fratton Park will miss Plymouth, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday's League One presence

Pompey will be glad to see the back of Plymouth, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday following their respective promotions to the Championship.
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From their six meetings with the trio, the Blues picked up a measly two points – with home draws against the Pilgrims and Tractor Boys the best they could do against the second tier’s newest members.

It’s a stat that contributed to Pompey finishing the 2022-23 season in eighth place and well short of even the play-off places. Indeed, only nine points from a possible 36 were picked up against those teams that finished in the top six.

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But while the Blues will perhaps be more optimistic of their League One chances with the trio out of the way, they’ll certainly miss their presence in the stands.

That’s after all three promotion winners contributed to Fratton Park’s biggest attendance figures for the season just gone.

Plymouth’s away following of 1,899 helped swell PO4’s crowd number to 19,009 when they travelled along the south coast for a 1-1 draw on September 17. That gate proved to be the Blues’ biggest of the season, with no love lost between both clubs’ respective fan bases. It’s also Fratton Park’s biggest crowd-puller since December 22, 2018, when 19,402 watched Pompey beat Sunderland 3-1 in League One.

The Blues’ second highest attendance figure of the season – 18,910 – came when Sheffield Wednesday were accompanied by 1,594 fans for their 1-0 win on Saturday, March 11.

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Meanwhile, Ipswich brought 1,601 supporters with them when they continued their recent rivalry with the Blues on December 29. A total of 18,849 fans were present that Thursday night, with neither set of supporters heading home celebrating a win as the game finished 2-2.

Pompey's home game against Plymouth back in September attracted Fratton Park's biggest crowd of the season - 19,009.Pompey's home game against Plymouth back in September attracted Fratton Park's biggest crowd of the season - 19,009.
Pompey's home game against Plymouth back in September attracted Fratton Park's biggest crowd of the season - 19,009.

The presence of those supporters made for terrific atmospheres inside Fratton Park, irrespective of the results. They will also have helped swell the coffers of Pompey and other businesses around PO4 with their spending during their brief stays.

But that might prove hard to replicate next season, given the average away numbers of those teams heading in the opposite direction into League One.

Indeed, Wigan, Reading and Blackpool will instead be making the trip to Fratton in 2023-24. And with average away attendances of 1,123, 894 and 1,066 respectively this season, they’ll struggle to match the numbers above.

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Coincidentally, Wednesday (2,446), Ipswich (2,206) and Plymouth (1,630) had three of the four highest average away attendances in League One last season. Pompey had the sixth highest average away following with 1,555.

On the flip side, while those teams heading to the Championship will be missed attendance-wise, the same cannot be said for those clubs dropping down to League One.

All four relegated clubs – Accrington (126 fans), Morecambe (139), MK Dons (236) and Forest Green (346) – failed to bring 1,000 fans to Fratton Park between them this season, with a total of 847 attending their side’s respective games at PO4. Saying that, it as Burton’s visit to Fratton Park on Valentine’s Day that drew PO4’s smallest crowd of the season – 16,434, with 103 away supporters attending.

With average away followings of 177 (Accrington), 285 (Forest Green) 319 (Morecambe) and 512 (MK Dons), there’ll be hope that the clubs coming up from League Two will attract bigger numbers.

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On the evidence of the season just gone, that’s looks highly probable, with Leyton Orient, Northampton, Stevenage and Carlisle having mean away crowds of 791, 674, 332 and 769 respectively in the fourth tier.

That will come as a boost – but the loss of those bigger crowds against Wednesday, Plymouth and Ipswich will no doubt be felt.