SPL analysis 2 - attendances

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SPL analysis 2 - attendances

Post by Scottish » Tue May 09, 2006 11:46 am

The SPL average attendance was 16191, an increase of 529 per match. That’s a rise of just over 120,000 in total. On the face of it, quite impressive but Lex Gold shouldn’t crow too much about this being down to the Setanta deal. There was a very good letter in the Sunday Herald this week pointing out that the SPL has been more competitive over the past couple of years and that’s more likely to account for crowd rises than any TV deal.

Very true. The entire SPL increase can be explained very simply. Attendances at Tynecastle are up by a massive 85,000 over the season thanks to Hearts challenge for a Champions League spot. Another fine season saw Hibs put on 24,000 and ICT – despite playing one home game less – are up by 10,000 thanks to playing all their games at home whereas they spent half of last season at Pittodrie. That accounts for the increase in its entirety.

The other big gainers were Kilmarnock and Falkirk. In Killie’s case their overall increase of almost 22,000 can be attributed to an extra game v the OF by virtue of finishing in the top six and big increases in travelling supporters from Edinburgh rather than any great movement in the numbers of home fans. Still, this reverses six consecutive seasons of falling gates at Rugby Park.

Falkirk, of course, were promoted and a big increase was only natural. Their arrival didn’t compensate for the loss of Dundee who attracted 25,000 more fans to SPL games than the Bairns.

Old Firm figures continue to amuse. Basically static for many seasons now thanks to their legions of season ticket holders, OF figures should be treated with caution. Graham Spiers in The Herald commented on how the official figure for Rangers v Hearts of 49,792 was at odds with reality.

Now ‘Britney’ isn’t the best-loved of journos by the Ibrox fans but what he says is a reality that away fans see time and again on their travels to Sodom and Gomorrah. It was the same at Celtic Park last week with the Kilmarnock matchday programme being highly sceptical about the figure of 48,649. I was at the game and would estimate the crowd to be closer to 40,000 than 50,000. And that gate was augmented by thousands of screaming schoolchildren admitted for free.

It’s the old trick of assuming every ST holder turns up at every game. Nothing new in that. Rangers did it for decades but in the days when there were around 3,500 ST holders max it didn’t distort crowds the way it does now with over 40,000 & 50,000 season book holders at the twin stadia of Mordor.

Of the rest it was ‘as you were’ for Dundee United and Dunfermline and as both clubs had disappointing seasons their figures aren’t all that bad. Particularly United who might have been expected to be harder hit by the loss of two Dundee derbies.

Livingston lost support but not as drastically as might have been thought, given their dreadful season. It was only in the last few matches that support began to drain away in significant numbers.

Worst performers were Aberdeen & Motherwell. In the latter’s case the loss of one fixture v the OF didn’t help though gates would have been down anyway. In Aberdeen’s case they were mediocre for too long, only making a push for the top six and Europe close to the split. Additionally, their final day crowd of 14,597 v Celtic was the worst for that fixture since 1964-65

Season’s best: Celtic v Hearts 60108
Season’s worst: Livingston v ICT 2278

2005-06 SPL average attendances with + or – on 2004-05
Celtic 58151 +209
Rangers 49245 +545
Hearts 16767 +4495
Hibernian 13818 +1279
Aberdeen 12728 -849
Dundee United 8198 -13
Kilmarnock 7071 +1140
Motherwell 6217 -743
Dunfermline Athletic 6197 +5
Falkirk 5503 +1618
Inverness CT 5061 +1010
Livingston 4938 -214



Excluding games v the OF
Hearts 16666 +5156
Hibernian 13212 +1367
Aberdeen 11729 -672
Dundee United 7534 -240
Kilmarnock 5921 +840
Dunfermline Athletic 5626 -190
Motherwell 5377 -460
Falkirk 5309 n/a
Inverness CT 4588 +1135
Livingston 4234 -275

V the OF only
Hearts 17143 +2010
Aberdeen 16724 -969
Hibernian 16091 +949
Dundee United 11617 +1078
Kilmarnock 11383 +915
Motherwell 10498 -675
Dunfermline Athletic 9247 +1049
Livingston 8694 +286
Inverness CT 7425 -16
Falkirk 6537 n/a

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Post by Neiljb » Tue May 09, 2006 2:48 pm

I very much doubt that there were 30,000 at Ibrox against Hearts last Saturday.

Come on Rangers, tells us how many really turned up to wish Alex bon voyage.
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Post by Neiljb » Tue May 09, 2006 3:24 pm

Also, this isn't a pop although it might seem like one.

Why did the Killie club blazers build an 18,128 stadium in the first place? I can see from another thread that the stadium has been full but I get the feeling that at least one of the stands shouldn't have been constructed until the finances of the club were more stable. Excuse my ignorance if I'm talking ****.

I'm not being smart, because I thing Hearts building the Roseburn Stand probably exacerbated their money problems.
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Post by Scottish » Tue May 09, 2006 6:00 pm

The story of the rebuilding of Rugby Park is a testament to the drive of then Chairman Bobby Fleeting. The ground had been run down for many years with the only significant development between the building of the main (now West) stand in 1962 and 1994 the alteration of the enclosure underneath the main stand from terracing to 1,800 seats.

When Fleeting took over as Chairman he knew the club had to build an all-seater after winning promotion in 1993 to comply with then current regulations. Promoted clubs were given a period of five years to meet Taylor Report requirements. However the massive funding which had been available in the late 1980s/early 1990s was drying up. Fleeting ensured Rugby Park was rebuilt just in time to catch the last slice of Football Grounds Improvement Trust money. Otherwise it would have proceeded at a slower pace. Three new stands were built between 1994-95 and the club didn't have to postpone a single match while this work was carried out. The existing stand was given a new roof to help it blend in.

To have gone slower wouldn't have saved money as grant aid was drying up and in any case the club's debt hasn't been caused by the ground but by loans advanced to build a hotel on what was the car park and by the excessive wages paid in the late 90s/early 21st century (certain players reputedly "earning" £8K a week).

Since the rebuild, Killie have had 65 home attendances in excess of 10,000 (the Taylor Report minimum) - an average of over five per season (the OF have accounted for 47 of these) and in one season - 1998-99 - the AVERAGE league crowd was over 11,500. So the capacity has been needed and without it the debt would have been even greater as the revenue from those games wouldn't have been available. Nor would a two-stand ground been awarded prestige games such as the World Cup qualifier against Estonia in 1997 which drew a crowd of 17,996 - the second biggest since the rebuild.

I would query those clubs such as St Johnstone & Raith Rovers who built to almost the minimum requirements, thus ensuring they lost thousands of pounds during their time in the Premier in the days when OF visits routinely topped the 10,000 mark. Neither of those clubs are in a particularly healthy situation today either. Raith even had to take their UEFA Cup tie v Bayern Munich to Easter Road. There would have been uproar if Killie had been forced to take a European game to Glasgow.

Or indeed ask why clubs like Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen built grounds which are too small if the teams are doing well. Remember, McCann was told he'd never fill 60,000 seats at Celtic Park yet he did. 25,000-30,000 would have been better for the Edinburgh duo and the Dons.

This season Hearts have recorded a better average than in 1986 when Tynecastle could hold a lot more. It's the best average outside the OF since Aberdeen's 17,138 in 1984. It's possible that with a bigger ground Hearts would have recorded the first non-OF 20,000 average for almost half a century.

Clubs still get it wrong. Falkirk and Inverness have to turn fans away when the OF are in town.

The Rugby Park rebuild also allowed for increased hospitality facilities which have brought in badly needed cash over the seasons as well as a completely revamped 'backstage' set-up. The ground has just had its UEFA licence renewed, one of only two Scottish clubs (the other being Rangers) to do so without any new conditions.

The tunnel remains too small - impossible for two teams to emerge together and the seats in the three new stands can be small and cramped, no doubt about it. But all in all Fleeting got it right. If he'd hesitated, Rugby Park would have been left looking like Firhill on a good day and possibly with the same playing status as well.
Last edited by Scottish on Tue May 09, 2006 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Neiljb » Tue May 09, 2006 7:17 pm

Thanks for that. It is an interesting history.

Sounds like the chairman knew what he was doing, except the thing about the car park. I'm not sure I could say the same about Chris Robinson.

If Murrayfield wasn't to huge and empty of facilities I'd watch Hearts there without any problem. It's just that I think that there is a psychological effect on the players and the supporters when the ground is full. It creates a greater sense of solidarity and pride when all the seats are full, which in itself makes more people want to come the following week.

The riddle is to design a stadium that feels full when it's not!

I believe that VR plans to bring Tynecastle up to 25,000 with a new main stand. If the medium term stratagy works, then the Wheatfield stand would be replaced to make 30,000.
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Post by Scottish » Tue May 09, 2006 7:36 pm

Bill Costley then Jamie Moffat were the chairmen at the time of the hotel decision which, I must admit, I have always found a bizarre one. The Ayrshire coast is hoaching with hotels to cater for golfers and holidaymakers and Glasgow has enough rooms for business and conferences. With Rugby Park stuck somewhere between the two differing types of demand I always thought it would be difficult to fill.

True, it does good business for meetings, meals, weddings and on matchdays but you could have built a facility to cater for that sort of traffic without adding beds with all their on-costs.

But hey, I'm no businessman so what do I know? Then again I'm not £14M in debt either.

It's difficult to strike the right balance on capacity. Obviously you want to fill your ground when necessary but you don't want it standing half-empty most of the time.

Also a question of supply and demand. The Edinburgh pair do good season ticket business with their comparatively small grounds. Would they do the same with a 30,000 seater if fans could just walk up and pay at the turnstile?

I think a successful Hearts and Hibs could both attract 30,000 for the OF, Edinburgh derbies and other 'big' games like cup quarter-finals and European matches. But domestically they'd be more likely to attract 15,000 or so for run-of-the-mill games even if top of the league.

Remember, even the OF grounds are well below what they held in their heyday. Celtic Park holds two-thirds of its former capacity and Ibrox less than half theirs. Rangers got it wrong though and have been desperately adding seats wherever they can. I'd estimate a ground of 25,000-30,000 would do for Hearts and Hibs on all but the very rarest occasions. But, manifestly, 17,000-18,000 is far too small for both of them.

Atmosphere is a funny thing. I've been in grounds packed to the brim but where the atmosphere was non-existent. Think the 'Highbury Library' or Old Trafford during Man U's great days. Similarly, a ground chock full of gaps in the seating can create a great atmosphere if the game on the pitch is good enough.
Last edited by Scottish on Tue May 09, 2006 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by bobby s » Tue May 09, 2006 7:48 pm

scottish wrote:I think a successful Hearts and Hibs could both attract 30,000 for the OF, Edinburgh derbies and other 'big' games like cup quarter-finals and European matches. But domestically they'd be more likely to attract 15,000 or so for run-of-the-mill games even if top of the league.
You yourself wrote an excellent article on how Celtic had never before averaged more than IIRC 37k before the built the 60k. Surely, prior to them building that far, you would have been convinced that Celtic couldnae have filled it for run of the mill league games.

For the second season on the bounce, both Hearts and Hibs will have in excess of 10k season ticket holders: surely that's not the absolute max, and is only limited by the current ground capacities?
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Post by Scottish » Tue May 09, 2006 8:11 pm

bobby s wrote:You yourself wrote an excellent article on how Celtic had never before averaged more than IIRC 37k before the built the 60k. Surely, prior to them building that far, you would have been convinced that Celtic couldnae have filled it for run of the mill league games.
Yes, I would have thought that 40,000 or thereabouts would have done them for most matches and they'd only need 60K for OF and European games. McCann proved everyone wrong. But I also queried whether this was permanent or not. We need to see one or other of the OF (preferably both) have a run of a few bad seasons. If the STs hold up then well and good. But if the renewals drop and the waiting list dries up would fans shell out in advance if they could just walk up and hand over their cash?

That's never been tested in Scotland yet. The evidence in England at clubs like Villa and Sunderland is that supporters stop renewing when times are CONSISTENTLY tough. For the OF that means 3rd or lower and an empty trophy room for two or three years on the trot.

Is there a waiting list for Edinburgh STs though? I thought Hibs were selling 'half-seasons.'

While I definitely think both clubs need far bigger capacities than they currently have I still doubt that they would pull in really big crowds for games v Motherwell, Killie, St Mirren etc.

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Post by Neiljb » Tue May 09, 2006 8:42 pm

Hearts are operating a waiting list for ST for the first time, largely because as you have said above if the ground had 25,000 there wouldn't be such a demand for STs.

VR fully understands that no publicity is bad publicity and I think that is his handle on taking the club forward. At the moment the OF and Hibs games would sell out a 25,000 Tynecastle and Aberdeen wouldn't be far off due to their fantastic travelling support. The other games would vary between 17 and 20 I think.
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Post by Scottish » Tue May 09, 2006 9:33 pm

The thing about Hearts this season is the remarkable consistency of their gates. The lowest crowd was 16,139. Back in the days of their highest gates - 1948-49 - when their average crowd was over 28,000 there was a 37,000 difference between their lowest and their highest. This term the difference is just 1,240.

Incidentally if they had a 30,000 capacity ground in the late forties they would have had to turn fans away on several occasions, losing over 50,000 from their total.

The trick is to repeat what McCann did. Convince your supporters that if they don't have a season ticket there's a real danger they won't get in to ANY games.

One final footnote on Hearts gates. It's a club best since 1964-65 when their average was marginally higher. Hearts finished second that season too.

I wonder who won the league back then? :lol:

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Post by Neiljb » Sat Oct 21, 2006 5:01 pm

What's happening to Aberdeen's crowds.

Today's "New firm" match had only 10,747.

I thought this fixture was a crowd puller.
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Post by Scottish » Sat Oct 21, 2006 6:02 pm

Aberdeen's gates are down by almost 1,000 on average, from 12,728 last season to 11,811 at the moment. But today's game isn't part of the decline. Based on last season's equivalent games, Dons crowds this season have been:

ICT -311
Dunfermline +8
Celtic -1727
Hearts - 3741
Dundee Utd +27

So this afternoon's game is actually Aberdeen's best crowd relative to last season :shock:

The major difference is that the Hearts game was live on TV this season. The Celtic match was televised last season and this and also had a lower crowd this term. So assuming there would have been a similar fall in attendance v Hearts anyway that means around 2,000 'lost' fans can be attributed to live TV coverage - or between £40,000-£50,000 in gate money.

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Post by Scottish » Mon Oct 23, 2006 11:22 pm

With every club in the SPL having played every other club once, here's a look at crowds so far, compared to last season's finishing averages

Celtic 57042 -1109
Rangers 50162 +917
Hearts 16594 -173
Hibernian 15244 +1426
Aberdeen 11811 -917
Kilmarnock 7137 +66
Dundee United 6943 -1255
Dunfermline Athletic 6396 +199
Motherwell 6041 -176
St Mirren 5825 +2028
Falkirk 5512 +9
Inverness CT 4346 -715

Every club has now had one home game v the OF so figures aren't skewed by some playing the big two more often than others. St Mirren(obviously) and Hibs are the big gainers. Dundee United (unsurprisingly) and ICT (minor shockerooni) the losers. The Inverness drop can be put down to the fact they have yet to face Aberdeen at home and Dunfermline's rise despite their position can be attributed to them having played both Edinburgh clubs at home.

But a drop for Celtic despite a better start than last season and a far better European campaign and a rise for Rangers who are actually worse off this season than they were last in terms of points is a puzzler.

The current SPL average us 16082 -109

Looking at current averages from European Football Statistics shows Scotland faring pretty well, behind only Germany, England, Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands top divisions though we also trail the second levels in Germany & England.

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Post by the hibLOG » Tue Oct 24, 2006 10:06 am

Interesting that last night's Pars v Hibs game was only 800 down on the corresponding midweek fixture last season, despite being televised.

Hope springs eternal for the travelling Hibee it seems.
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Post by Neiljb » Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:44 am

Hearts 16594 -173


The lower average was due to a cock-up in the ICT game. The game was supposed to be sold out before the match with away fans being offered sections L and M. A communication failure between Hearts and ICT meant L was left empty on the the day. Also, Falkirk had 2 sections numbering about 1400 but I'd estimate brought less than a thousand.

The home end has sold out for all the games this season, except Murrayfield obviously. Whether or not that continues in light of recent events will have to wait and see.
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