For ongoing discussion and information on global crowd figures
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Post by Scottish » Wed Jan 14, 2015 2:26 am

So, why this new forum? Well, as many long-term users of this site will be aware, I’ve had a fascination with crowd figures for many years. It all started back in the 1970s when I noticed that while figures were usually attached to English results, they were often missing from Scottish ones. Further, many of the English attendances were exact numbers whilst the Scottish ones which did appear were rounded up or down to three zeroes or at best five hundred.

Other than keep a record of Killie crowds I did little about this until the late 1980s when I started collecting figures both current and retrospective on the Scottish game as a whole. It was only when I started to write my first book – ‘Killie – the Official History,’ published to mark the club’s 125th anniversary in 1994, that I became aware that the Scottish Football League held records going back to 1961 at its then HQ in St Vincent Street, Glasgow.

David Thomson, the league’s assistant secretary, gave me permission to research Kilmarnock crowds both home and away for publication in my book. Later, official KFC historian John Livingston unearthed a complete set of home attendance figures for all competitions between 1947-61, with the exception of 1955-56 and a few games at the start of the subsequent season. He kindly allowed me to use these in my updated Killie history ‘Everygame’ in 2001. John also found some pre-war figures that I was able to include.

I should also give proper thanks here to Hearts historian David Speed who provided me with Tynecastle figures for most of the 1930s and the early seasons after World War Two, as well as calculating home attendances based on gate returns for the period from 1890-1930.

In 2002-03 whilst researching the official Hampden centenary book along with Forrest Robertson of this parish, Richard McBrearty of the SFA museum and Andy Mitchell, then at the SFA and also of this parish, gave me access to the Hampden gate book, which was available from January 1934 onwards. Sadly, much Queen’s Park material was destroyed in a fire in 1945 so I guess that’s what happened to earlier gate books.

At any rate, these books were a treasure trove of information. I managed to obtain details of Scotland games plus major domestic cup ties and all Queen’s Park league games. Unfortunately, pressures of time and travel (I was at that time living in Cornwall and it was a ten hours rail trip just to get to Glasgow) meant it simply wasn’t possible to jot down details of “minor” competitions such as the Scottish Amateur Cup (though I did manage to note details of Junior Cup games).

But the mother lode – the complete details on league matches since 1961 – always remained tantalisingly out of reach. The SFL, despite David Thomson’s entreaties on my behalf, consistently refused to give me access to these on grounds of “confidentiality.” Even requests for Third Lanark figures (a club which no longer existed and for which no one could speak to demand “confidentiality”) were rejected.

Informing the SFL that their English equivalents had put this information into the public domain as far back as 1925 and that major European leagues likes those in France (since 1948), Italy and Germany (though still with significant ‘three zero’ hold-outs like Bayern Munich) saw no problems in doing so cut no ice whatsoever.

Finally, and much to my surprise, after a decade of pursuing the issue, the SFL agreed to my request to use all attendance information in their possession when I was researching ‘ROAR of the Crowd.’ By now they had moved to spacious new offices at Hampden but the cubby hole allocated for research was no bigger than the one in St Vincent Street. More importantly, by then I had moved back to the North-East of England and it took just two and half hours to Glasgow by train so it was much easier to travel for research purposes. Even at that it was still a case of getting the first train in the morning, the last one back at night and eating sandwiches on the hoof in between in order to garner as much information as possible in any one day.

I still have a set of voice recorded Word documents with matches and figures which sound as fast as an auctioneer at a cattle market.

At this time I asked David Thomson about figures prior to 1961. He told me that when he started work at the SFL he had tried to find these and again when the organisation moved headquarters to Hampden but without success.

However, the fact that English figures were available from 1925 and that same season references to attendance figures can be found in the Scottish press, coupled with Bob Crampsey’s mention of 1950s attendance figures in his centenary history of the league, convinces me that such information was once available, even if it is now – as seems likely – permanently lost, other than information retained by some clubs and that which appeared in print at the time.

An even stronger reason for believing such figures existed is Entertainment Tax. This was introduced as a “temporary” wartime measure in 1916 on a sliding scale of deductions according to admission price. Football clubs, in addition to other sports and entertainments had to provide CERTIFIED returns to the taxman, based on the number of admissions at each rate. So it would have been possible to assemble not just total figures but to determine how many season tickets were sold, how many paid at children’s (or boys as it was so blithely assumed at the time) and senior citizen rates, how many paid for entrance to the stand and how many at the regular adult terracing admission.

This information, though not in the public domain, would be known to three parties – the clubs, the SFL and the Inland Revenue (now part of HMRC).

The tax, like many other such “temporary” impositions remained in place for many years, outliving not just the World War in which it was introduced but the subsequent global conflict as well. Though in fairness it didn’t last as long as another “temporary” wartime tax measure which was introduced by Pitt the Younger to finance the Napoleonic Wars. That one was called Income Tax.

It wasn’t until 1957 that football was exempted from Entertainment Tax provisions (after that the tax applied only to cinema until its full abolition in 1960, although other taxes such as the betting levy were introduced shortly afterwards, with punters continuing to have either stakes or returns deducted until 2001 when all betting taxation was shifted to bookies profits – Hallelujah!).

At any rate here is a clear period between 1916-57 when football clubs were bound by statute to declare their returns to the taxman. As the SFL’s information starts in 1961-62 that means there are no more than four seasons in the past century during which it was possible for clubs not to have notified some authority or other of their attendance figures and I find it hard to believe these were not submitted to the league during these years as there are many exact club figures available for this period.

But the mystery remains as to whether the league’s figures were discarded as unimportant as part of a general clear-out, or whether they are still available stuck somewhere deep within the bowels of HMRC.

I want to take some time out here to lay to bed (hopefully) one of what I consider the great myths of both English and Scottish football attendances – the idea that published crowd figures were far smaller than the numbers actually in attendance.

Yes, there were occasions – many of them – when fans hauled down gates or scaled walls and were not recorded in official figures, not mention those admitted by way of the plaintive cry “Gonnae gie us a lift ower, Mister?” But the idea that there was a wilful downplaying of figures seems to me to be risible when you look at the facts. The Inland Revenue would have been down the throats of any club doing this to any significant extent and if it wasn’t done to a significant extent then it wasn’t worth doing at all. Secondly, these stories don’t hold water when you consider we are talking about an era when gates were shared. If, say, there were 30,000 or 40,000 at Ibrox or Celtic Park and the figure of 20,000 appeared in the press, does that mean that the away team didn’t get their cut of the “extra” or were they in on the act too? If the former then club officials were monumentally stupid. If the latter then there was a conspiracy on a scale to challenge the Kennedy assassination, the Moon landings, Shergar, Lord Lucan, Princess Diana’s death and 9/11 put together.

I don’t discount the oft-told tales of Celtic chairman Bob Kelly being asked for the attendance and giving a figure off the top of his head which appeared in the press the next day. But that figure would be 30,000 say, never 29,241 or 31,354. So the idea that Kelly was giving fiddled figures out doesn’t ring true. Especially as no rounded figures were ever handed in to the SFL.

Yes, it’s true we are in a situation today where the opposite applies and it’s manifestly obvious there are far fewer in the stadium than is claimed. That’s down to the season ticket culture. With clubs keeping all the revenue from league games and the massive expansion in season book sales since the creation of all-seater stadia, some clubs count season ticket holders as present at every game. This is a matter of choice. These fans have paid for their seats so clubs are within their rights to count them. At the same time we see what is in my opinion an abuse of the Freedom of Information Act by fans (from the Old Firm it has to be said, indulging in their age-old tit for tattery) making police requests for attendances and crowing triumphantly against their rivals when these are far lower than the number claimed.

But a major caveat applies here. Those figures are not collected by the police but are submitted to them by the clubs and it is in every interest of clubs to keep policing costs down. The Old Firm consistently pay far less than the bills accrued for policing as it is. A – genuinely worthwhile – FoI request revealed the extent to which this happens. ... t-14251800

Another obvious reason clubs prefer to include those who have paid but not attended is sponsorship. The larger the market, the greater the sponsor’s cash.

The Old Firm’s attitude is the most blatant because it’s the most obvious but it’s nothing new. Rangers have always included all season ticket holders, even in the days when these were restricted by the powers-that-be to only around 2,500-3,000 of them. Notoriously, Clydebank routinely added 600 season ticket holders to their crowds in the 1970s and 1980s even when, on occasion, it was obvious there were fewer than that number in the ground.

Other clubs adopt a different approach and count only those actually attending. To the best of my knowledge Kilmarnock have never counted non-attending season book holders. That I believe they still do so can be seen by this season which, I believe, in some instances actually produced figures lower than the number of season tickets sold.

Some clubs, particularly in England, draw as close to capacity as possible week in week out. And for those that don’t, they don’t seem afraid to publish the real attendances. Aston Villa have close to 30,000 season and half-season ticket holders yet during their current travails, gates have dropped below the 30,000 mark. Again, take away fans out of the equation, and clearly they are not including season book holders in their published figures.

Having lived in Barcelona for six years I can bear testament that Barça are the same. The figures they publish for each match reflect the numbers in the ground. They could, if they wanted to, claim in excess of 90,000 for every match but they don’t.

Anyway, I’ve digressed long enough. Back to my story.

Before, during and after writing these books I was busy collecting as much crowd information as I could, particularly on Scottish clubs involved in competitions outwith the three major domestic ones. These included the Texaco/Anglo Scottish Cup, the Drybrough Cup (for which I already had figures for Hampden finals) and above all else, European games, especially away matches.

For some years UEFA had this information (or at least estimates) on their website but during a major site revamp this disappeared never to return. Obviously UEFA receive crowd details but they don’t even publish contemporary information on their site. Most of this can be found elsewhere but once again life is made difficult for the football historian.

But, and finally I get to the crux about this new forum, after many hours spent searching leagues and associations I have managed to put together a mass of information on attendances worldwide. Sometimes its been quite easy to compile information, especially if the FA or league concerned maintains a decent website and/or the word they use for spectators or crowd isn’t a million miles away from English – think ‘spectateurs’ in French or ‘espectadores’ in Spanish. Occasionally, even here the odd problem arises. Central and South America also use the word ‘asistencias’ for crowd figures and that’s directly interchangeable with what we would call ‘assists.’ Finding the right words for non-European languages is a bit more difficult but trial and error usually works- It’s easy for example to find out where the spectator number is on the official Indonesian and Vietnamese sites. After that it’s simply a matter of looking out for ‘pelonton’ and ‘Khán giả’ respectively. In some languages – notably some of the Arabic countries – excellent websites make it fairly obvious what the crowd figures are even if there is no English translation. Here – and in Cyrillic too – identifying club badges can be the key to unlocking crowd figures. Another factor is that translation isn’t always simple. Many countries refer to spectators as ‘visitors’ which presents its own particular problems in differentiating ‘visitors’ to a match from visitors to a website. Even some European countries use words which have thrown me. In German – a language which never uses two syllables when there are six available – the most common term is ‘zuschauerzahlen.’ Then again this is a language which calls a goal a ‘tor’ as if it were an ancient god.

Over the next few weeks I hope to put this information up on site. I don’t want anyone to think this is in some way definitive or set in stone. I am always looking for new information and anyone should feel free to post any details they may have or to make observations either praising or criticising (though not too much of the latter, please) the details posted.

I’ve tried not to make it too euro-centric, hence leaving European crowds as the last to be posted but in order to give some perspective to crowds in countries and of clubs of which we may not know much, I’ve made comparisons with figures from European and South American countries and clubs.

Finally, any errors are mine alone and corrections are always appreciated.

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Post by Gorgiewave » Sun Feb 22, 2015 3:45 pm

The Webmaster is the only person I've ever found who shares my fascination with crowds and even exceeds it. This section will be a porn fest.

Girlfriend out with her friends, phone off the hook, interweb on, atts. all day.
"He took about half an hour to do it, but he did it!"

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