Debate over actual attendances

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Matt
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Debate over actual attendances

Post by Matt » Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:20 am

How does everyone feel about the freedom of information request based figures as provided by the police? Example: According to Strathclyde Police the attendance recorded for the Celtic vs Dundee League game was 31,749. Likewise, Celtic’s crowds for their League opener and their League Cup match vs Raith were (significantly) lower than given by the club and/or the media.

Should such numbers be considered for statistical purposes or should we ignore them because we would operate with a dualism (“club/published crowds” vs “police/FOI crowds”)?

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by prorege » Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:19 am

Link to the FOI request:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1 ... losure.pdf

I've always thought that the 'Crowd' or 'Attendance' must refer to the number of people at the game, not some notional figure based on who might turn up because they have a season ticket.

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by bobby s » Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:49 am

Are Celtic unique in this regard?
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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by HibeeJibee » Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:49 am

I doubt Celtic are unique in this, tbh - I think there'll be other clubs whose declared figure is actually "tickets sold" rather than "tickets used". Of course the problem is that you don't know when any given club started using the system, even if you come to know they're using it. And there's always been claims of smaller clubs adding X dozen on; of Chairman Kelly 'telling' some minion what the crowd at Parkhead was after looking out of the window; etc.

I'm more sceptical about the League Cup claim, though - that it was 9,x00 nor 15,x00, IIRC.

Raith are due half the gate... surely they'd cry foul if the £££ was much less than the crowd suggests.

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by Matt » Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:24 pm

As far as I am concerned clubs count all seats sold, at least for League games, i.e. incl. ST. The actual attendance doesn't seem to really matter to them. Unless some kind of binding rule is introduced where actual attendees are the only ones included in the attendance figures, then this will go around and around.

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by Sat31March1928 » Fri Oct 12, 2012 1:01 pm

bobby s wrote:Are Celtic unique in this regard?
Hearts did it for a spell around 2007 but now quote 'bums on seats'.

They quoted 16,000 odd for a game when i had a photo showing at least 2,000 missing from one stand.

Hibs I think did it for some games last season.
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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by Scottish » Fri Oct 12, 2012 2:12 pm

A few observations: there is no hard-and-fast agreed method of determining attendances and never has been. HibeeJibee raises an important point, that in cup football the proceeds are split and the away club would have to be pretty daft to accept an obviously lower figure. However, this also militates against the argument that the likes of Bob Kelly used to just jot down a figure and that was that. In Kelly's time league gates were also split and the same argument applied as in cup ties now. If there was a crowd of 40,000 why should an away team accept a figure of 30,000 when it meant they were losing cash? You could say the same thing happened when the 'away' club played at home but the discrepancies between figures at OF grounds and elsewhere were in the main much bigger so it wasn't in any team's interests to go along with fiddles.

However, there was a time when there was an incentive to do just that and that was between (I think) 1915 and 1957 when Entertainment Tax was applied to football. Obviously undeclared spectators meant income retained in full but both clubs - and presumably the SFL - would have to have worked in collusion.

These days it's more important for clubs to quote larger attendances as this helps with sponsorship, advertising, TV etc. You could also say that if someone has paid for their seat via a season ticket then they've paid for the match in question regardless of whether they are there or not and the most obvious venues where this has happened on a grand scale in recent times have been Celtic Park & Ibrox where huge swathes of empty seats have gone alongside figures claiming 95% of capacity in use.

One area where it is profitable for a club to massage its figures downwards is in policing. The fewer fans the fewer police on duty

For some clubs adding season books has always been the case. For many years it was claimed that the lowest attendance for a Premier Division match was 431 for Clydebank v Dundee United but the figure submitted to the league was 1,031 as Clydebank routinely added 600 season tickets for every home game. Rangers were also 'guilty' in this respect.

In 1971-72 for example Rangers added 3,390 season ticket holders to every match. Thus end of season home games v Dunfermline & Ayr were submitted to the SFL as 6,021 & 5,869 respectively. But at the Dunfermline match only 2,631 paid to get in, consisting of 1,632 adults and 999 children. For Ayr the figures were 1,485 & 994 for a total of 2,479. Now obviously the actual number in attendance was higher than the number who paid but lower than the numbers given. But as they failed to count the actual number using season tickets it's impossible to give an accurate account. Celtic never separated out season ticket holders from submitted figures.

Nor was this restricted to big clubs. An extreme example at the opposite end of the spectrum occurred on Nov 25th 1978 when the crowd for East Stirling v Meadowbank was given as 120. A further breakdown showed this to comprise of 66 seasons & comps, 44 concessions and just ten full paying adults. Nonetheless, in this instance the number inside the ground is accurate. However, in previous seasons they added 250 season ticket holders to each game. Meadowbank v Stranraer in 1975-76 had a figure of 290. There were 36 paying adults and 44 juveniles but no breakdown of the other 210. This was a common occurrence for that club. In 1977-78 they drew just 94 for a match v Stranraer, 21 of whom were paying adults. The next season saw them at their worst. 294 v Brechin (24 adults), 231 v East Stirling (29 adults), 221 v Forfar (26 adults) and no details at all of the rest.

Clydebank would include between 300-800 season ticket holders each season but always a round number. At least Rangers quoted a precise number of season ticket holders. Forfar's varied between 220-550 which accounts for their seemingly and comparatively large crowds when they were in the 1st division in the 1980s and early 1990s when they regularly posted a four-figure average. Stirling Albion regularly included exactly 300 season ticket holders for most seasons between 1961-1977

Then there are intra-season anomalies. In 1977-78 Berwick Rangers included between 20-30 season ticket holders for the first half of the season then exactly 200 for the second half. In the same season Hamilton posted 500 for their first four games then 600 for the rest. The next season they gave 750 for the first match and 1,000 for all the others. In 1980-81 they again included 1,000 for every game but in 1981-82 just 205. In 1979-80 Queen of the South included no season tickets until January when suddenly 309 of them appeared in each and every match for the rest of the season.

The last season Rangers included all season tickets for every match was 1980-81 when they had 2,588. In 1981-82 their average dropped by almost 2,000 but it's impossible to say whether this was due to the removal of seasons from the total (indeed if you make that argument then their crowds ROSE by around 600 at a time when they were in decline in most of Scotland and Rangers were rank). It's more likely that, as now, season ticket holders are the type of people who use their tickets if not for every game then for as near as dammit. That applied even more so back in the 1980s when holding a season ticket was largely the preserve of the middle class.

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by Skyline Drifter » Sun Oct 14, 2012 9:33 pm

As I'm sure I've posted on here before, we at Queen of the South declare the number of people in attendance, not the number of people who paid. And that's always what we've done since I've been involved which dates back to the mid-1990's.

Even if we wanted to include everyone who paid, we've no way to actually work that figure out on the matchday. The declared attendance uses the turnstile meters to count bodies entering the ground. We have no way of telling during the match how many season ticket holders actually attended as they don't use a separate entry point. The only way of working that out is post match counting of the actual vouchers used (which isn't usually done until the Monday).

I'm curious about the FOI request. We don't supply crowd figures to the police so far as I know. Is this something specific to either Strathclyde or the SPL?

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by ScottishFA » Sun Oct 14, 2012 9:35 pm

Just to show this is nothing new, here is a great snippet from Bell's Life in 1876:

In the match between Scotland and England, £300 (less a few shillings) was taken at the gate, including tickets, representing 6,000 people who had paid 1s each. The ladies were admitted to the ground free, say, to the extent of at least 1,000; then, allowing for free tickets, &c, 500, and 1,500 getting inside without paying, by wholesale destruction of the palings, this gives 9,000 inside. So far as the outside is concerned, many asserted then, and are willing to do so still, that at least 6,000 were outside on every available spot round about the beautiful crescent, thus producing a total of 15,000 spectators.

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by MadMac » Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:25 pm

A few comments on this:

1) For season tickets, the money is paid up front. I believe there comes a point where it becomes worthwhile to pay the VAT on a game-by-game basis rather than when the ticket is purchased. Accordingly, the "declared" figure for VAT purposes would have to include all paid admission, irrespective of whether those individuals turned up. This, of course, only applies to those clubs who actually PAY VAT.....

2) I have a distinct recollection from the 1970s that Scottish Cup crowds at Tynecastle were specifically published as "excluding season tickets" - possibly related to 1) above?

3) Something sticks in my mind that there was, in the relatively recent past, a restriction on how many seasons a club could sell (the number 1000 comes to mind) - anyone else recall this?

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by Scottish » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:38 am

Don't know about 1 & 3 but 2 is highly unusual as it never was usual practice for seasons to cover Scottish Cup ties for the simple reason that gate money is split. If Hearts were doing this it suggests that seasons were good for the Scottish Cup but obviously had to be removed from the total to be divvied up. Even so, other clubs can't have been happy as many of the season ticket holders would have turned up anyway. Thus a club was being deprived of income if this happened. As for replays well imagine the ructions if one club let season ticket holders in and the other didn't.

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by Skyline Drifter » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:31 pm

MadMac wrote:A few comments on this:

1) For season tickets, the money is paid up front. I believe there comes a point where it becomes worthwhile to pay the VAT on a game-by-game basis rather than when the ticket is purchased. Accordingly, the "declared" figure for VAT purposes would have to include all paid admission, irrespective of whether those individuals turned up. This, of course, only applies to those clubs who actually PAY VAT.....

2) I have a distinct recollection from the 1970s that Scottish Cup crowds at Tynecastle were specifically published as "excluding season tickets" - possibly related to 1) above?

3) Something sticks in my mind that there was, in the relatively recent past, a restriction on how many seasons a club could sell (the number 1000 comes to mind) - anyone else recall this?
I've dealt with several football clubs and never come across one who didn't pay the VAT up front on season ticket sales. Of course that may be the sort of scheme bigger clubs come up with to defer what would be a much bigger liability. In any event, even if they did do that for financial reasons, I fail to see why the declared crowd needs to change. As long as you explain where the number came from for VAT purposes you could easily not include such sales in the VAT return on the match date without including them in the attendance return.

Never heard of declaring attendances "excluding season tickets" but as I was born in the 70's the era is well before my time in being conscious of attendance declarations. Nor have I ever heard of a restriction on season ticket sales. Anyone?

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by Scottish » Wed Oct 17, 2012 5:56 pm

Any restrictions were placed, I assume, at the clubs' behest rather than any legal requirement (other than capacity of areas seasons were offered for). In 1947-48 for instance, despite relegation after almost half a century in the top flight, Kilmarnock received over 2,000 applications for season tickets yet had only 900 available for sale. The then stand could accommodate around 2,000. Why they should refuse guaranteed income paid in advance (in those days there was no option of monthly payments - the 'all or nothing' approach was another reason why seasons tended to be the preserve of the well-heeled) I don't really know. If Richard Cairns reads this maybe he can ask club historian John Livingston what the reason was and we can maybe find out why clubs didn't issue more seasons.

As I've noted before, Rangers had by far the highest number of season tickets at around 3,000, yet they sold nowhere near 50% of seating capacity. And that was after the abolition of Entertainment Tax so that couldn't possibly have been an issue.

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by Scottish » Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:06 pm

Received this from Richard Cairns:

"Spoke to John (Livingston, KFC historian). Initial thoughts were that it might be something to do with the fact that in those days you paid into Rugby Park, then paid again to get into the stand. More money to be made that way than from season tickets, which let holders into Cup ties for free.! A more prosaic explanation may be something to do with splitting gate monies. The answer is out there somewhere, so we're looking for it."

Certainly I can recall it being standard practice at many grounds for spectators to pay more to seek the comfort of the stand when the heavens opened. At Rugby Park, before it became an all-seater there were three grades of admission. Terrace, Enclosure, Stand and you could transfer between terrace to either enclosure or stand. The enclosure option was a bit daft as it offered little more protection than the two covered terraces.

As recently as 2003 I can recall a rugby match at Penzance which saw a mad dash for the stand after a half-time downpour of biblical proportions.

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Re: Debate over actual attendances

Post by HibeeJibee » Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:58 pm

The (to my mind somewhat quaint) phenomenon of paying to get into the ground, then a 'supplement' for the stand, is still quite prevalent in the Highland League (where it's generally £7/£8 admission + £1 for the stand) and Scottish club rugby.

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