A number of broad trends in league match attendances in English football at the aggregate level are identified in Chapter 6. During the post-Second World War boom, league attendances surged, reaching an all-time high of 41 million in the 1949 season. The boom, however, was relatively short-lived. It was followed by a period of sustained decline that continued, almost uninterrupted, until the 1986 season, when attendances fell to 16.5 million. Subsequently there has been a steady and sustained improvement. By the 2009 season, total attendances had increased to 29.9 million. Undoubtedly, the growth in attendance since the late 1980s understates the growth in demand, because many of the leading clubs are capacity-constrained and could sell volumes of tickets that in some cases would be far in excess of existing stadium capacities.
Chapter 6 also reviewed the academic debate about the causes of the long post-war decline in football attendances, and its recent reversal. Social and demographic change, increasing material affluence, the option to watch football on television rather than in person, crowd misbehaviour, the deteriorating physical state of many of football's stadia, and the dubious quality of the some of the fare on offer on the field of play are among the many factors considered to have contributed to the decline in the popularity of attending live football. More recently, improved facilities in all-seated stadia, together with the near-eradication of the hooligan problem, have helped strengthen football's appeal as a middle-class spectator sport.