FOOTBALL clubs in the lower divisions are well used to the hard times.

But talk of a crisis in the Premiership is something new. With attendances at most top flight clubs in decline, the bubble appears to have burst.

There was further evidence of football's troubles last night when Middlesbrough announced the cancellation of a supporters' flight to Greece for a UEFA Cup tie.

The bottom line is that not enough fans wanted to go. And for a club which has worked so hard to make the European grade, that is a sad state of affairs.

The problem for all clubs is that football is in danger of paying the price for allowing its costs to spiral madly out of control.

When the blind pursuit of success is dependent on spending obscene amounts of money on players, that cost is bound to be passed on to the average fans who have to scrimp and save for the privilege of following their teams home and away.

When those fans discover that they are forking out hard-earned cash to watch teams that place the emphasis on not losing because the price of failure is so high, it is hardly surprising that the game starts to lose its appeal.

Throw in the appalling standards of behaviour displayed far too often on the pitch, and the fact that the Premiership race is a foregone conclusion because a Russian billionaire can buy whoever he wants, and it's not hard to work out why attendances are down.