Bradford City and Hull City lead the way in putting fans first - Stuart Rayner comment
Even after the miserable reminder of behind-closed-doors football, the game seems to too easily lose sight of how important bums on seats are.
I was not lucky enough to be at Valley Parade on Sunday when more than 20,575 set a new record for a fourth-tier play-off attendance but I was six days earlier when it had its biggest league gate for 70 years – 22,576.
As Hughes pointed out at the time, it was not just the numbers, it was the atmosphere created. With a title to celebrate too, Leyton Orient's travelling fans were excellent too – good away fans make such a difference.
On that day there was an extra layer, the respectful silence before the game, the minute's applause during it, hammering home the poignancy of the anniversary of the Valley Parade Fire. You cannot do that from home.
Elland Road in full voice is something to behold, the celebrations when Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town achieved Championship safety and Sheffield United secured promotion were special, as was the atmosphere when Barnsley hosted Sheffield Wednesday during the League One run-in.
The apathy and downright annoyance at Doncaster Rovers this season was exacerbated by remembering atmospheres like those.
Bradford have long been wise to it, pitching season ticket prices accordingly. Acun Ilicali has brought crowds back to Hull City via generous pricing, and subsidised away travel. We need more of this thinking.
Football must keep trying to ensure being in the ground is better than watching on the television because flat atmospheres are even bad for armchair viewers. The Football League's next broadcast deal, with over 1,000 matches a year from the season after next, makes it even more important.
Non-league gates this season have been terrific. They have sensible kick-off times, (usually) reasonable prices and often a genuine sense of connection so it is important the 3pm blackout protecting them remains despite Leeds United's recent game at Manchester City and Barnsley's play-off at Bolton Wanderers chipping away at it.
Howard Webb's appearance on Sky Sports this week was a welcome step in communicating to fans – in this case from the VAR room at Stockley Park – but needs to go further.
Fans in the stands cannot be oblivious to what is happening, especially if those on the sofa are getting a fuller picture. All Premier League grounds should have screens able to show the VAR replays those at home see, Fifa must allow Webb to let stadia hear the deliberations.
Even little things like communicating when a sub is a concussion substitute – as Huddersfield and few others do – is important.
The crackle Hughes felt is the reason he returned to the game.
We must do all we can to encourage it.