THE declining state of British football was further illustrated last night after a Middlesbrough FC flight to a European match was cancelled because of a lack of interest.

The club's official flight to Greece for next week's Uefa Cup clash against Xanthi was scrapped by TravelCare because it believed it would not be commercially viable.

It came days after another travel company, Flight Options, cancelled its scheduled flight for supporters from Durham Tees Valley Airport.

The announcement came as declining attendances are coming under the spotlight.

Analysts warn that football's boom period may be ending, with spiralling admission prices and top sides using more negative playing tactics.

Nine of the 17 Premiership clubs that were in the league last year have seen falling numbers of fans at matches this season. They include Middlesbrough, whose first three home crowds were 31,908, 26,206 and 28,075 - significantly below the Riverside Stadium's 35,120 capacity.

And the club, in its second season of European competition, only attracted just over 14,000 fans for the first leg of the tie with Xanthi last week.

Last night, Graham Fordy, the club's head of commercial, said: "Flight Options did not have sufficient numbers to run their service and it was thought that when they were forced to cancel, those who had booked with them would transfer to the TravelCare flight. The reality is that not many did and the numbers booked were not sufficient to run their plane either."

Communications manager Dave Allan said the club's first three games of the season had been televised, which impacted on attendances.

At Newcastle United, attendances have been good, with crowds of 51,620, 52,327 and 52,208 for matches against West Ham, Manchester United and Fulham.

At Sunderland, crowds of 34,446, 33,357 and 31,657 were higher than last season's Coca-Cola Championship average of 28,821, but short of the Stadium of Light's 48,000 capacity. Comment - Page 12