Manchester United website, Reds Away, published attendance figures they had received from Greater Manchester Police which showed that the official number given by the club was some way short of the “actual” attendance. One of the more shocking headline figures was that close to 16,000 people bought tickets for a United league game in January but didn’t attend. The average disparity between the club figures and the police figures over the course of the season is around 10,000.
These statistics were quickly picked up by the national press with claims that United have yet to sell even as many 70,000 for a league game this season.
It is usual practice for clubs to publish figures for how many tickets have been sold for games, rather than how many people walked through the turnstiles, as part of the FA rules. This has been highlighted on several occasions at the Emirates this season, particularly in their games against West Brom and Swansea. Whilst there looked to be at least 10,000 empty seats, the club claimed the games were sell outs.
Manchester United have refuted the claims there have been so many empty seats as the GMP figures claim there have been though, which would put our average attendance for all competitions at 61,739 rather than the club’s 73,653. The club said there are 9,000 executive seats at Old Trafford and there are ‘a number of areas that for various logistical reasons are not scanned’, but that the number of unscanned entrants would not account for such a sizeable difference.
However, whilst it is believable that the attendance may be lower for League Cup games, when United field weakened teams and never the first XI, there are several games which would lead you to doubt the reliability of their statistics. For example, GMP figures claim that there were around 6,000 empty seats at Old Trafford for the games against Liverpool and Arsenal. It’s not just common sense that tells you that figure can’t be accurate, but photographic evidence too. If you have a look at the 360 degrees photo from that game it’s clear that the ground is full. Another example is the Norwich game, with GMP figures claiming there were around 10,000 empty seats, but yet again, the 360 degrees photo proves that isn’t true. They also claim that there were around 4,000 empty seats for the game against Real Madrid. Whilst there are less desirable games for some to attend at Old Trafford it’s ridiculous to claim that the attendance for Liverpool was just 69,933, which questions the credibility of all their figures.
The plot thickened on Friday though when the GMP claimed that they hadn’t made any data available, having obviously not spoken to Amanda Ratcliffe who responded to Dale Aslam from Reds Away.
The GMP are lying about releasing the data but their own data is totally flawed. But why would the press bother to question that eh?