For some reason whenever Manchester City and Liverpool are due to meet at the Etihad there’s quite a lot of nonsense said about attendances so I thought I’d best get some analysis done and post it here. It’s always nice to post the facts not the fiction, so here goes (some of this may surprise those who only listen to the negativity about Etihad crowds and the positivity about Anfield attendances, not the facts).
The general criticism City get is often about ’empty seats’. No club can boast that every single season ticket holder or fan who has bought a ticket attends every game for which they’ve bought the ticket, so inevitably there are ’empty seats’ at most games for all clubs. Family tragedy, illness, emergency, work commitments, travel problems etc. all contribute to missing fans. As we don’t have a system whereby you have to get a note from a family member to pass on to the club’s manager (it seems some think you do need to get permission!) if you’re going to miss a game it is impossible to have an accurate record of who simply cannot be bothered to attend, rather than a specific reason that stops them attending.
Personally, I think it’s all nonsense and I’d much rather focus on tickets sold as that is something that can be compared. So, here are some facts based on attendances at Anfield and the Etihad since City’s new stadium was built in 2003:
Since 2003 City have attracted a higher average attendance than Liverpool in all but 5 seasons. Some will say ‘ah, but the Etihad’s capacity has been larger than Anfield for most of that time’ and that is true, but that’s only significant if Anfield is a sell out every game. So it’s also worth looking at those seasons to see if Liverpool attendances show a full stadium or not.
Well, Anfield was not full every game. In fact Liverpool’s lowest home League crowd of the season has been lower than City’s in every season except five since 2003. Add to that that City’s lowest PL crowd at the Etihad since 2003 is higher than three of Liverpool’s home PL attendances. The four lowest individual League crowds experienced at either Anfield or the Etihad since 2003 are:
34,663 Liverpool v Portsmouth, 17/3/04 (ended the season 4th)
35,064 Liverpool v Portsmouth, 14/12/04 (ended the season 5th & Champions League winners)
35,400 Liverpool v Bolton, 1/1/11 (ended the season 6th)
35,776 City v Fulham, 18/11/06 (ended the season 14th)
That 34,663 Liverpool crowd was some 10,699 below capacity. Had the crowd been 44,163 (still less than season’s highest of 44,374) that would have added another 500 to Liverpool’s average attendance that season.
Away allocations and segregation impact on whether a stadium is full of course, but we can assume that an away allocation is approximately 3,000 for Premier League games. As Anfield’s stated capacity in 2003 was 45,362 (it was reported as 45,522 by 2010), it is fair to assume that the actual maximum number of tickets available to Liverpool fans is about 42,100. So any crowd less than that figure is not a sell out (assuming zero away fans – of course there could be a full away allocation and spaces elsewhere but for the purpose of this let us give Liverpool the benefit of the doubt and assume there are zero away fans).
In 2003-04 there were 6 League games at Anfield that attracted less than 42,100. As we’ve already seen Liverpool’s average could have increased by 500 had their lowest crowd been closer to the season’s highest, so imagine what the increase would have been had all these games been full.
That pattern is repeated in other seasons. In 2004-05 the average crowd at City was less than Liverpool’s stated capacity, and that season Anfield again officially had over 10,000 empty seats for their lowest League crowd of the season. Had they filled Anfield every game then they’d have attracted a higher average than City, but they didn’t.
In 2010-11 there were 6 games attracting less than 42,100 at Anfield with the lowest again officially having over 10,000 empty seats.
Of course City have also had over 10,000 empty seats for some games, though not since 24/8/2008 when 36,635 watched City v West Ham at a time when there were rumours of players’ wages not being paid and even the existence of the club was in doubt.
Anfield last officially had over 10,000 empty seats for a Premier League game in 2011 for the visit of Bolton.
Over the last decade both clubs have tended to enjoy capacity crowds for every game, subject to away allocations and segregation, but that is definitely not true for either club prior to that. I find it ridiculous that City receive so much inaccurate reporting of crowds when actual official figures paint a different picture.
Some will try to make out that official figures are incorrect but of course these things are audited and, in any case, when rival fans criticise City they tend to imply its attendances in recent years that are inaccurate. Yet when comparing Liverpool and City’s crowds it is clear that City were attracting better crowds than Liverpool twenty years ago and that Liverpool’s lowest official crowds were lower than City’s.
Oh, it’s all a load of codswallop. Those who attend games know the truth and the facts and evidence paint a picture somewhat different to those ‘Emptyhad’ and ‘Anfield’s always been full’ jibes aimed at City fans.