Norwegian football suffers as fans stay away

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11:46 CEST+02:00
Rain, a new addiction to "electronic places" and strong competition from Europe are the main reasons Norwegians have abandoned their top-league football, the Eliteserien, judging by a flurry of critical press reports.

Those three key reasons are among a total of nine reasons given for the demise of outdoor audiences attending Norwegian football games, according to newspaper Bergens Tidende. 

At a recent Stabaek match, theclub announced during the game that 5,852 were in attendance, making a mockery of the 1,200 photographed and counted by a Dagbladet photorgrapher as the fans braved cold seats to cheer their teams. Stabaek explained by saying they decided to “include everyone present”.

The Eliteserien’s director Nils Röine refused to acknowledge that all audiences, including TV audiences, were on the decline. VG TV — the digital broadcast arm of the newspaper group — has claimed viewer numbers are down.

“We’ll see,” he said, adding that coming playoff matches will be decisive.

Fans have complained about the lack of hard-to-predict league timetables: unlike in other professional sports, the Eliteserien league has struggled to fix the dates of championship matches, a key planning demand of fans.

Others blame the record rain over the largely open stands and a nationwide stay-at-home feeling that endures after the summer’s massacres, when a politically motivated gunman hunted down teenagers at a youth camp for Young Labour.

In Aftenposten’s special report on the sport, coaches worried about the trend toward near-zero spectators and blamed the league’s long season, spread from June to November with games four days a week.

“Games were once only on Sundays,” said Lilleström coach Henning Berge, adding that many now have no idea when to listen or watch, as schedules change. He suggested deals with TV stations for prime time were partly to blame for the spread.

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“TV companies are not especially happy about having to show half-full stands,” said Berge.

Röine, too, suggested better cooperation with TV networks was perhaps the key.

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