Portadown’s financial fears as crowds fall despite rise up the table

The main stand at Shamrock Park during Portadown's home win over Knockbreda. Pic courtesy of Portadown FC
The main stand at Shamrock Park during Portadown's home win over Knockbreda. Pic courtesy of Portadown FC
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Portadown chairman Ronnie Stinson has reiterated fears over the future of the club following falling attendances despite a rise to the top of the table.

The Ports sit at the head of the Bluefin Sport Championship standings thanks to 10 wins from 15 fixtures in pursuit of promotion and a return to the Irish League’s senior stage.

However, a shortage of support from the Portadown community’s general public has left Stinson and his Board of Directors baffled - and voicing concerns over the long-term damage.

Saturday’s home win against Knockbreda, according to club figures, generated around £1,400 over the turnstiles, leaving an average profit of approximately £460 per week between Shamrock Park fixtures.

With weekly running costs of around £6,000 covering the wage bill, electricity and £22,000 annual rates, the shortfall continues to fall on the shoulders of Stinson and his directors.

“It is heart-breaking that we have a team producing results that put us top of the table and on course for a return to the Premiership but attendances are down by an average of around 100 fans per week over the gates compared to last season,” said Stinson. “Our biggest gate of the season cleared just short of £3,000 but that was at home to Newry City AFC on a Friday night.

“Unfortunately, Championship regulations mean both clubs must agree to a switch in the kick-off time.

“So our opportunities are restricted for Friday fixtures, which have proven more attractive in the past, or even a Saturday evening kick-off that might open up the option to attend games to those involved in the Mid-Ulster Football League or grassroots football.

“We have our season-ticket holders and loyal hardcore fanbase but you look at the numbers in that Newry game or the fact we had about 600 supporting us in last season’s play-off game away to Carrick Rangers and it proves the potential general public support is out there.

“Our community work includes free tickets to various schools and youth groups in the area to encourage more people to visit Shamrock Park and we advertise our home fixtures outside the ground, so steps have been taken to raise awareness.

“However, interest from the casual fan continues to fall and you have to wonder does the town even want a football club?

“We can appreciate attendances have been falling over a number of years due to the club not being competitive for major trophies or because of relegation.

“We have worked hard to clear our historical debt and continue to build our sponsorship support but the current financial gap on a week-to-week basis is crippling.

“You look at those figures from certain games and it is clear the interest remains - we just need the general public to come out on a regular basis and get behind your community’s senior club.”