Attendance Differences

I’ve been doing quite a bit of research into attendance figures this week and thought I’d share a couple of findings which may surprise some. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about certain clubs having ‘empty seats’ and I think many Manchester City fans will remember the Manchester Evening News feature where a young journalist used a red highlighter to circle every empty seat he saw at a particular game. This was challenged by fans, including myself, who questioned the time the image he utilised had been taken and the purpose of the article.

Since then fans of rival clubs have often pointed their finger at City and accused the club of having ‘empty seats’ at every game and so I’ve decided to look at the last 30 years and compare each top flight team. Obviously, I could compare average attendances and leave it at that, but as so many people talk about ‘empty seats’ I’ve decided to take a different approach and look at the difference between the highest crowd for each club in a season and that club’s average attendance. I’ve taken the highest attendance as this gets over any potential issue with the reported capacity of a ground.  

The average attendance for each club is inevitably lower than the highest crowd and with away support typically being about 3,000, any difference of a few hundred between the figures could simply be additional segregation for high profile games or maybe away allocations not selling out. Once we get into the thousands then that would suggest the home allocations have not sold out.

Comparing the highest crowd with the average may not necessarily be the best way to compare clubs but it does give an indication of how full a stadium is or not, so it fits with those who obsess about ‘empty seats’.

As well as comparing those figures I’ve also compared the highest crowd with the lowest crowd for each club. The difference between these attendances shows how many ‘empty seats’ (to use that awful phrase) a club has for certain games each season.

Okay, so what does all this show?  Well, I’ll be explaining more in another article soon but a few headlines to include here that may surprise some fans are:

  • Manchester City have generally had one of the ‘fuller’ stadia over the last 30 years since the Premier League was established, even during seasons when the Blues were out of the top division.
  • In 2000-01 (a relegation season for City) the difference between City’s highest crowd and average attendance was 571 and the difference between their highest and lowest crowds was 2576. At Liverpool the equivalent differences were 1,107 and 6,332, meaning that typically there were about twice as many ‘empty seats’ at Anfield than at City and that the worst attended League fixture at Anfield had 6,332 less people at it than their best. At Everton the differences were even greater: 6,130 between highest and average with 12,590 the difference between the highest and lowest attended games. Aston Villa’s figures were even more extreme.
  • In 1998-99 (City’s only season in the third tier) some games were, quite frankly, poorly attended when compared with the best in the Premier League but remember this was the 3rd tier. Those crowds were extraordinary for that league. City fans often believe the ground sold out every week but sadly it didn’t and the difference between City’s best crowd and worst attendance was 8,180, which seems excessive. However, comparing this to the Premier League clubs of the era or today’s giants shows that some had even greater differences. For example, Aston Villa (9,682 difference), Everton (9,828), Leeds (10,243), Liverpool (8,833), Wolves (9,109) and so on. Ultimately, City’s figures in the third tier were absolutely astounding compared to some of those clubs who were in the Premier League or 2nd tier.
  • In 2004-05 the difference between City’s highest and lowest attendances was 4,768. Aston Villa’s was 11,281; Everton’s was 8,146; Leeds’ was 9,911; Leicester was 8,982; Liverpool’s was 9,160 etc.

These are just a few examples of attendance analysis I’m currently performing and there is so much more to say. Often fans of some clubs will say that the capacity of their stadium limits attendances and there is obviously truth in that, but if a club’s lowest attendance is almost 9,000 lower than their best (as with Liverpool in 2004-05) then the capacity of the stadium is not an issue on that day. A few hundred and it’s an issue, but almost 9,000?  

Watch this space for more information over the coming months. The whole ‘empty seats’ accusations are ridiculous and statistics show that all clubs have experienced this phenomenon on occasion during the Premier League era.

Allison Wins Bet With Crerand!

Today’s the day (27 October) in 1965 when Malcolm Allison won a significant bet with Pat Crerand about attendances at Manchester City. The Blues had drawn 0-0 with Norwich at Maine Road, ensuring City were top of Division Two and looking like promotional hopefuls. A crowd of 34,091 watched the match and Allison was delighted with that figure. The attendance had won him ten pounds off Manchester United’s Paddy Crerand who had told the City coach that City were a ‘dying club’ and bet him the Blues would never get a crowd above 30,000 at Maine Road again!  Later that season 63,034 watched City play Everton – an attendance greater than any domestic crowd at Old Trafford that season. Allison had the last laugh of course!

Subscribe to get access

If you’ve enjoyed this then why not subscribe? Every subscription directly helps support my research and provides each annual subscriber with access to everything posted on this site, including the entire Manchester A Football History and From Maine Men To Banana Citizens books, plus interviews, articles and more. I am not employed by anyone and all my research is self funded or comes from subscriptions to this site.

Subscribe to get access

You can subscribe at either £20 per year (above) or at £3 per month here (cancel any time). For those subscribing £3 per month you will be able to access all content from October 2022 onwards for as long as you are a subscriber. Those subscribing £20 a year have access to everything posted since December 2020.

Where Were You?

On this day (January 20) in 1900 the attendance stats (see image) seen here were published in various newspapers. Of course, as a historian who researches these sorts of things it does not surprise me at all that Manchester City were the best supported club at this stage. However, I can understand why some may have been surprised back then. City had only just been promoted for the first time the previous season.

In the end Manchester’s Blues ended the season as the third best supported club with an average of 16,000 (League champions Aston Villa attracted 19,825 and 5th placed Newcastle 16,725). City ended the season 7th in the top division.

For those wondering Newton Heath (Manchester United) averaged 6,225 and were the 16th best supported club. Liverpool averaged 11,325 and were 5th best supported club.

MCFC Attendances Sequences

Lots of people talk incorrectly of Manchester City’s support and so for today’s subscriber feature I’ve decided to focus on the growth in City’s average attendance from the club’s first season in the League through to recent years, alongside other crowd related statistics. Hopefully, this will help to answer any questions raised on the loyalty of City’s support (but somehow I doubt it!).

If you would like to subscribe and read this and all my other content posted to this site (over 400 articles/sound recordings/interviews including the entire Manchester A Football History) then please use the button below. It costs £20 a year (that’s about £1.67 a month) and you have access to everything for as long as you are a subscriber (you can even subscribe for a month at a time at £3, access everything and then cancel your subscription if you like!).

Here’s the article for subscribers…

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content and everything else on the site, when you subscribe today.