New boys Larne expecting to rival top Premiership teams in attendance stakes next season
Newly-promoted Larne are on course to have the second largest average home attendance in the Irish Premiership next season, with top-flight fever already gripping the town three months away from kick-off.
Larne season tickets for the 2019-20 season went on sale this week and have been doing a roaring trade.
The feel-good factor generated by Purplebricks millionaire and local hero Kenny Bruce taking over the club and investing millions on and off the pitch continues to ooze around Inver Park.
While it may be a step too far to think that Larne can win the league title next season, manager Tiernan Lynch and his coaching staff are determined to make a big impression, and it looks like they will have plenty of backing from the fans.
Larne had an average home gate of around 1,200 when walking away with the Championship. Comparing that to the figures released this week for last season's Irish Premiership crowds, the Inver outfit would be mid-table in the attendance stakes but, with the huge interest in the town combined with more travelling supporters, Larne are expecting a significant increase in those coming through the turnstiles for 2019-20.
Not surprisingly, champions Linfield were top of the heap in terms of top-flight numbers with an average of 2,390 supporters at Windsor Park last term. Next were Glentoran on 1,584, closely followed by Coleraine (1,497), Ballymena United (1,396) and Crusaders (1,393).
If that is an indication of what is in store next season, Larne could be the club closest to Linfield.
Larne chairman Gareth Clements said: "Our season tickets went live on Monday night and the interest has been fantastic. It's really positive ahead of the new season. The town has bought into what we are trying to and continues to do so.
"Our average crowd at Inver Park last season was around 1,200. If you look at the averages for attendances in the Irish Premiership, we would be sixth, and bear in mind in the Championship virtually no away supporters came to our ground.
"We are confident that next season we will have minimum attendances of 1,500, even against teams who don't bring much away support, and we believe there will be certain games where we will be at capacity and turning people away.
"Our capacity can go as high as 3,000 at the new Inver Park next season. Right now our capacity is 2,760, which was around the figure for last season's Irish Cup game at home to Coleraine.
"In the home stand we can hold 1,250 and we have safe standing for 750, so that's 2,000. The new stand that was built behind the goal holds 782. Taking into consideration health and safety we'll be able to allocate 700-odd tickets for that stand for away fans for the likes of Linfield and Glentoran.
"Until building work starts at the Church End we can accommodate 360 in there, so realistically we can host over 3,000.
"Looking at where we are and attendances at other clubs, our average should be up there in the top three. We are now preparing in every way for the new season and it's an exciting time for everyone involved with the club."
Average home attendances for Danske Bank Premiership clubs in 2018-19 season
BALLYMENA UNITED: 1,396
DUNGANON SWIFTS: 645
NEWRY CITY: 630
WARRENPOINT TOWN: 260
Figures courtesy of Marshall Gillespie