No matter how much money is spent on players and how many trophies are won, Manchester City still never seem to be able to fill their stadium.

Their fans have become very defensive about the issue, claiming there might be the odd seat here and there, whereas for visiting fans and those watching on TV there are clearly thousands of empty seats every match.

Using the Freedom of Information, BBC Sport asked every Police force to provide figures for what were the actual crowds (number of people who went to the games) at each Premier League club in the 2017/18 season, to find out whether they tallied with the claimed ‘attendances’ that were announced after each match.

As BBC Sport explain:

‘Most teams in the Premier League choose to publicise the number of tickets sold for a game rather than the number of people actually in the stadium. That means they include season ticket holders who don’t attend, and complimentary tickets that are not used.

They are not breaking any rules by choosing this method.

According to the Sports Ground Safety Authority, clubs are required by law to know the number of people attending each game for safety reasons and plan in advance for expected attendances. They do not need to release this information, however, and authorities broadly accept there is sometimes a difference between publicised attendance figures and those obtained by BBC Sport.’

BBC Sport were knocked back the majority of Police forces who said they did not hold that information and simply directed them to the figures published by clubs.

However, they had better joy with seven clubs.

With Manchester United, it was claimed that their figures exactly tallied, announced crowds the same as how many actually showed up.

However, the six others were significantly different, massively so in the cases of Manchester City and West Ham.

BBC Sport true attendances stats:

manchester cityAs you can see, the figures for West Ham and Manchester City were based on the stats from 12 home matches each.

For West Ham it showed an average of 42,779 attending games and not the claimed 55,309 – a huge 12,530 less.

Meanwhile, Manchester City were almost as bad, their crowds 7,482 less on average, 45,792 and not the reported 53,274.

The overall (reported) average attendances for the full 2017/18 season are below.

Table via Soccer Stats:

premier league attendances

Whilst BBC Sport were unable to get any exact figure response regarding Newcastle United, that 52,157 average attendance should be pretty close to the true figure of how many actually attended. Any empty seats last season certainly not taking the average down under 50,000, never mind anywhere near the 42k and 45k attendances for West Ham and Manchester City respectively.

At Anfield, Liverpool always looks full, whilst clearly Man Utd and Spurs were well out of reach last season.

However, it looks clear that Newcastle had at least the fifth highest average crowds last season, and whilst there are no true figures for Arsenal this time, they are regular offenders in the past when it comes to crowd figures not matching up to the truth. Last season the Emirates looked like it had even more empty than usual as their poor fans didn’t finish top four, so I would hazard a guess that there is every chance Newcastle’s crowds were very close to or even higher than Arsenal’s last time.

This season however, it is already looking like Mike Ashley has at last managed to sicken enough fans so that St James Park won’t sell out regularly, if at all. The Chelsea and Spurs games didn’t sell out and Arsenal still has seats available three days ahead of the game, these three attractive matches usually sell out straight away, plus all three clubs have sold their full 3,2000 away allocation.

  • Paul Patterson

    Clubs need to stop publishing attendances as ‘tickets sold’. That’s NOT an attendance. If you don’t go through the turnstile, you have NOT attended. End of . .

    • BillyBoy

      Clubs can’t sell tickets twice. If season ticket holders don’t show up, what is a club to do?

      • Paul Patterson

        If somebody doesn’t turn up, their card doesn’t get scanned. Publish the scanned ATTENDANCE, not tickets sold . .

  • Al the blue

    Empty stadium at the etigad??Do you think we really care..well over 50k every week..oh and 3 premier league titles..2 league cups..1 fa cup since takeover…season tickets cheap as chips..yeah its shot being a city fan of over 40 the way,what have you won with mike ashley in charge recently??your bitter geordie tears taste so sweet

    • csh

      Obviously some of you DON’T care, which is the whole point of this article…

    • panther

      who did you support ten years ago?

      • Peaky

        Probably Man Utd…

    • Albert Stubbins

      aye you really sound as though your not bothered!! try harder.

    • TheFatController

      Easily wound up, by any chance?

    • Billmag

      Have you not heard him say he doesn’t own a country.

    • Paul Patterson

      Easy to throw stones at our glass house when you’re sat in a brick hut . .

      • Ron

        People in glass house shouldn’t throw orgies, stones as well I suppose.

    • Ron

      I remember the Man City cup final when you lot didn’t even stay for the lap of honour and YOUR team stopped at our end put the cup down and applauded us. We had been chanting “City” as they picked up their trophies because you couldn’t you’d left. So don’t try and compare us with you.

      You’ve no soul.

    • SuperDesHamilton

      Are you having a stroke everytime you type, or you just think ?

  • Al the blue

    Geordie dilusion is as bad as scouse delusion..

    • csh


      • Peaky

        That’ll be the ‘spice’….

      • Ron

        We’re not as deluded as the scousers it would seem.

    • 52k

      Own goal there professor

    • panther

      small club in the midlands going nowhere till the money came in, souless club full of plastics

    • SuperDesHamilton

      Delusion you Mong.

  • Mike

    who cares

  • Brian Standen

    It’s a canny well known fact that the crooked NUFC board of the 70s & 80s fabricated attendance figures, possibly for financial reasons!
    But went the other way, IE understating attendances!
    Why they really did this is open to conjecture but it was common knowledge!

    • Cockneytrev

      I remember the old blokes beside us laughing at what the attendance was supposed to be as we were packed like sardines and there was obviously more in the ground than stated.

    • Leazes.

      Two kids through the turnstiles on one click was a common occurrence, (kids were thinner in the post war era) there was occasional assaults on the walls like a medieval siege too, so yes there was understating of attendances….. it was petty corruption.

      • Brian Standen

        I can remember fences used as laddders at back of Leazes, my old man used to bump me through on the west corner ( adult only gate) – I stood on packed terrace with a gate of less than 22k
        If memory serves me correctly it was all to do with match day costs – a crowd of over 26k cost more to police etc
        Hence the falsification of figures
        Great days though

        • ZICO MARTIN

          It was mostly cash in those days, a lower banked figure meant ahem, less tax to pay etc etc . allegedly ahem

    • Peter C

      I was at many a game in the 70s and 80s, when you could pay at the turnstile, and couldn’t believe what the attendance gate was quoted as being, the next day in the Journal or Sunday Sun.

      On a regular basis, thousands were being lopped off the official attendance figures, in my estimation.

      The ground would be full, no gaps to be seen, people packed in like sardines, and you would read the next day, some obviously fictitious figure, of how many people who attended.

      As you say, probably some sort of financial reason, or in my opinion, probably, dishonesty.

      But you can also put it down to, the not so honest Gatemen.

  • Bryan Keller

    It just shows, however you want to massage figures to make your team seem more worthy of praise, you can never escape from the fact that their fans are starving for the want of entertaining football.

  • Milburn_Taylor

    we could have 100,000 fans & nothing would change under Ashley,
    to be honest i would like to see our gates at zero

  • simonjames60

    “Newcastle United…average attendance should be pretty close to the true figure of how many actually attended”

    that’s a pretty big assumption to make

    Confronted with evidence that for most other teams there is significant discrepancy between estimated attendance (sales / tickets) and actual attendance how do you justify saying ours will be accurate?

    My son and I finally gave up our season tickets at the end of last season.
    I recall every week being told capacity crowd, 52000 +, yet there were large numbers of the posh seats behind the dug out that were empty throughout the game

    • Leazes.

      The ‘Bigging-up’ process, it doesn’t really need bigging up, it just needs honesty but you won’t find it in any of the media which surrounds the club….

      …..those seats were the first to see the effect of Ashley…..businessmen and their clients who never came back, in fact a lot walked out, and to the extent that there are in the region of 6000 virtually free seats…..the true picture of the walk out was hidden…. the chronicle only saw the full ground and backed Ashley’s ‘support the team not the regime’ nonsense.

  • Toon

    Hardly stunning, most people know this anyway