The errors of Andrew Smith

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The errors of Andrew Smith

Post by Scottish » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:33 am

Today’s Scotland on Sunday contains an article by Andrew Smith, suggesting that attendances in Scottish football are suffering on account of the absence of Old Firm derbies. http://www.scotsman.com/sport/football/ ... -1-3249508

The article is riddled with errors and inconsistencies. Take this statement “the past two league games are the first back-to-back such encounters to have attracted crowds of less than 30,000 while the championship has been a live issue since the stadium became a 60,000-seater arena in 1998. Then, accurate attendances were given out. Now, these require freedom of information requests, with the club aggregating the number of paid-for-seats, which amounted to 46,000 for each of the victories over Hibernian and Hearts this month.”

No one knows whether the first assertion is true because the second sentence is incorrect. Accurate attendances – in the sense of counting only those in attendance at the actual game – were NOT given out in 1998 and subsequently. In 1998-99 Celtic declared an AVERAGE league attendance of 59,271 for a stadium with 60,355 seats. In the eleven seasons from 1998-2009 the LOWEST average declared by Celtic was 53,887 in 1999-2000. Their attendances started to fall in 2009-10, well before Rangers exited the top division.

If, as Smith asserts, accurate attendances were issued before the increasing demand for FoI reports, then his argument that Tweedle Dum needs Tweedle Dee and vice versa is shot to pieces. For if crowd figures were accurate for Rangers then they were also accurate for other teams. If Celtic need Rangers then they also need visits from the likes of Dundee, Dunfermline, Hamilton Accies and Livingston who all apparently enticed near-capacity crowds to Parkhead.

Smith goes on to say: “The 20,000 no-showers among Celtic’s season ticket holder base probably retain their tickets currently for two reasons: they received a £100 reduction on them last summer and it will probably be only 18 months before there is a Rangers to ridicule and lord it over in the Premiership. Without that promise of ding-dong derby days, most of these fans would probably chuck their tickets.”

Hmmm. While there is no doubt that an Old Firm match is an attraction for fans of the respective clubs, maybe, just maybe, the prospect of entertaining Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus, Man Utd, Arsenal and others in Europe MIGHT just be a motivating factor for season ticket purchasers.

Smith goes on to say (correctly) that there is a hardcore of around 25,000 Celtic fans (he doesn’t mention that the same is true of Rangers). There are two things he fails to understand, or refuses to take account of, entirely. The first is the arrival of the season ticket culture following the building of all-seater stadia. This was exploited first during the Souness era at Ibrox, then, brilliantly, by Fergus McCann at Celtic Park. It was McCann who persuaded supporters of a club which hitherto had never reached an average of 40,000 in a season – or to put it another way, a club whose best ever average wasn’t as high as Charlton Athletic’s – of the “necessity” of buying a season ticket. Smith doesn’t seem to know that some clubs have ALWAYS included season ticket holders in their published attendances. Hence for the last year of Celtic’s nine-in-a-row inn 1973-74, which he mentions in regard of the Celtic support, the Rangers average was 22,356. But that was bolstered by the inclusion of 3,330 season ticket holders for every match. Of course in those days the number of season ticket holders was a lot smaller than now and the percentage attending a great deal higher. But the principle remains the same, whether it’s Celtic including around 35,000 as automatically attending in 2013 or Clydebank counting 800 in 1973.

The second thing Smith fails to recognise is the reason for Freedom of Information requests. Had FoI been around in the years immediately following 1998 then the results wouldn’t have been all that different to today. Sub-30,000 gates for Scottish Cup and League Cup ties at both Parkhead and Ibrox provide the evidence for that. The reason there are so many FoI requests these days is the product of OF tit-for-tattery. One side sees empty seats in TV and demands to know the “real” figure. Then someone from the other side does the same.

It is a grotesque waste of public funds which the clubs could resolve if they wished by publishing the numbers actually in attendance if they wished, or the police could make available without going through several layers of bureaucracy. On the plus side, bombarding the police with FoI requests is better than knocking lumps out of one another after a match.

I suspect the constabulary feel the same way too.

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Re: The errors of Andrew Smith

Post by nightfire » Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:33 pm

I'm sure I've mentioned on here before but I now take little notice of what is publically stated as being an accurate attendance.

However, in relation to the article that suggests attendances from pre-1998 were always accurate is quite simply a load of bollocks. Strangely enough the running joke about attendances from the Kelly/White days at Celtic was the continual under stating of attendances for many of the games and to think Andrew Smith is a former Editor of the Celtic View :lol:

Whether this happened with other clubs I don't know but I do recall Bob Crampsey trying to explain it away that stated attendances at Celtic Park never included season books and/or main stand although that alone would not account for some of the under estimation.

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Re: The errors of Andrew Smith

Post by Scottish » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:16 pm

He's actually suggesting it's only since Rangers vanished from the top flight that accurate figures stopped being issued. I'm familiar with the old saw about Bob Kelly having a look round the ground midway through the second half and writing down a figure with the crowd on it. There is a major problem with this "theory" and that is that in those days gate receipts were split. So, if Kelly was underplaying the figures, then opposing clubs must have been either ignorant of the true size of the crowd or willing to forego their share of the take.

Neither seems likely.

What seems more plausible is that from 1916 up until the mid-1950s Entertainment Tax varying from 8% to 25% depending on admission charges was applied to football and it was definitely in the interests of clubs to massage figures downwards. However this doesn't remove the problem of the visiting side which would had to have been in collusion with the home team for this to happen. There also remains the paradox that for most clubs the first decade after the Second World War (when the tax was still applied) was the period when their greatest crowds were recorded.

It's certainly possible that Celtic didn't include season ticket holders but these would never have been more than 3,000 or thereabouts. I'm not saying the Kelly story is entirely without substance but it seems to have developed something of the urban myth about it over the years. It's more likely he was responding to queries from the press box.

There is another reason for Celtic recording low attendance figures for much of this time and that is they were a poor team. As for Celtic crowds during the NIAR era these don't look out of place to me. Highest & lowest home figures 1965-1974 were:

Aberdeen 62236 & 18684
Airdrieonians 39550 & 15392
Arbroath 26780 & 14959
Ayr United 25204 & 18785
Clyde 35222 & 6743
Cowdenbeath 20537
Dumbarton 26616 & 18615
Dundee 38734 & 12355
Dundee United 43983 & 11036
Dunfermline Athletic 40890 & 18423
East Fife 21811 & 18918
East Stirlingshire 14715
Falkirk 32048 & 10339
Hamilton Academical 10247
Heart of Midlothian 36238 & 16795
Hibernian 42706 & 21057
Kilmarnock 37321 & 11661
Morton 47902 & 8176
Motherwell 35022 & 18573
Partick Thistle 31415 & 20572
Raith Rovers 29933 & 19477
Rangers 73480 & 50316
St Johnstone 56926 & 17403
St Mirren 44875 & 20095
Stirling Albion 17735 & 14157

Most of the lower figures were either towards the end of period, postponed fixtures played in midweek near the end of the season or, as in the cases of Kilmarnock & Rangers, played at Hampden.

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Re: The errors of Andrew Smith

Post by Angusfifer » Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:51 pm

Interesting stuff.
On a slight tangent, I take it that the highest/ lowest East Fife attendances are for 1973-74 and 1972-73 respectively?

My records have:

11.12.71 21,000
21.10.72 20,000
3.11.73 23,000

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Re: The errors of Andrew Smith

Post by Scottish » Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:58 pm

Angusfifer wrote:Interesting stuff.
On a slight tangent, I take it that the highest/ lowest East Fife attendances are for 1973-74 and 1972-73 respectively?


Yes, those are the seasons.
Angusfifer wrote: My records have:

11.12.71 21,000
21253
Angusfifer wrote: 21.10.72 20,000
18918
Angusfifer wrote: 3.11.73 23,000
21811

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Re: The errors of Andrew Smith

Post by Scottish » Wed Jan 08, 2014 4:58 pm

You may also want post-1961 cup attendances between the clubs at Celtic park. In the League Cup these are:
Sep 16th 1964 31024
Aug 16th 1972 14379

Unfortunately for the Scottish Cup tie on Feb 3rd 1973 all I have is a round 25000.

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Re: The errors of Andrew Smith

Post by Angusfifer » Sun Jan 12, 2014 10:44 pm

Thanks for that!

I happen to have an attendance for the 1972-73 Scottish Cup tie: 24,446 (Gate receipts: £6,678)... :mrgreen:

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Re: The errors of Andrew Smith

Post by Scottish » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:28 pm

Many thanks for that. Always happy to strike three zeroes off any fixture.

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