"Tonight’s attendance is 59,583." Yes, that’s what the PA announcer actually said on Wednesday night.
I don’t know what it looked like on TV, but from inside the stadium I can guarantee you that there was nothing even approaching 59,000 people at Emirates Stadium for the FC Twente game.
The new Home Of Football has a capacity of 60,355, so if the club are seriously trying to suggest that there were less than 800 vacant seats for the Champions League qualifier, then they must think us supporters are very foolish indeed.
One of my fellow Gooners estimated that every fourth seat was empty – meaning that there were around 15,000 Arsenal fans missing last night. I don’t think it was quite that bad, but even if I was conservatively estimating that one in 10 seats were empty, that’s still 6,000 and there were some gaping holes around the stadium.
This is an ongoing issue I have with the club. I just don’t get it. Why do Arsenal insist on telling us porkies about the attendance numbers?
It was so blatant a couple of times last season that I contacted the club to ask them just how they compiled their stats. Arsenal contend it’s the attendance on the night.
It was suggested to me anecdotally that the figures include staff working in the stadium. But looking around on Wednesday, that still wouldn’t have accounted for more than 59,000 people.
Another possibility is that the numbers are based on ticket sales, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with attendance, and the fact that the Twente game was the first ever to go to general sale, suggests that less than 800 tickets didn’t sell. Having shelled out so much money for the coming season, I find it hard to believe that so many season ticket holders would fail to turn up.
Rumour has it that at Highbury they used to make the numbers up because the counter systems on the turnstiles were not accurate. But surely that can’t be the case at our state-of-the-art £390 million stadium?
According to the contractors (Broughton Controls Ltd) who fitted the stadium’s access points, there are 104, full-height turnstiles, 28 half-height turnstiles and 13 automatic glazed pedestrian gates. All are activated by Arsenal membership cards or match tickets and all include automated counting devices, so there’s no excuse for Arsenal not giving us the true attendance figures.
But maybe one of you Addicts can tell me why the club would want to massage the statistics so blatantly. Is there a monetary reason why they do it? Perhaps pitch side advertisers have to pay more if there are more people inside the ground? Or is it just to satisfy our club statisticians?
If you have a theory, then share it here, cos it may be a relatively small issue, but I can’t for the life of me see what good it does a club that wants its supporters to believe and trust in it.