Wednesday, 12 April 2017


My new book 'CROWDED HOUSES' is now available.  Paperback edition and  e-book
Excerpts are available for both.
Click to enlarge

What can you expect from it? Well, there are several excerpts in blog posts from this year but I'll let the book's introduction speak for itself.

It’s a perennial post-match topic. Along with scepticism over refereeing decisions, doubts about penalty kicks, uncertainty of offside calls and animated expressions of delight/disgust at the game in general, debate over attendances invariably pops up. “What do you think the crowd was?” is part of the football fan’s staple conversation.

I first began to take a wider interest in attendances in the 1980s when I noticed that press reports of English matches usually contained an exact crowd figure while those of Scottish games were more likely to be estimates ending in two or three zeroes. So began my personal odyssey to discover the truth or otherwise behind the estimates. Like Odysseus but fortunately minus Calypso, Cyclops, Sirens or Lotus-Eaters, it was a voyage that took many years to complete. Ultimately, it came to fruition in my book ‘The ROAR of the Crowd.’ Its generally favourable reception motivated me to expand my interest. I decided that one day I would return to the topic but this time would look at Europe as a whole. Since then research has become easier thanks to the increasing availability of source material online. The days of long journeys to cold libraries to pore for hours over decaying microfiches are thankfully long gone. Yet just like ‘ROAR’ this book has been many years in the making.

The aim is to look at the rises and falls in crowd figures, to see what factors are at play, what similarities or differences prompt movement in one direction or the other, to compare countries of equal size and to disseminate more widely information otherwise unknown. I’ve endeavoured to cover every country in UEFA, even those with no or little information available. I’ve looked at domestic leagues and European club competitions. I’ve sought to accord appropriate coverage to each country. I’ve also tried to delve down as deeply as I can into the lower levels of the game, to the fifth and subsequent tiers. England and Scotland are the most prominent but Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia and others also feature heavily and no nation is omitted.

The biggest problem was knowing when to stop. The football season has no natural concluding point these days. For example, the 2015-16 Champions and Europa Leagues qualifiers kicked off less than 48 hours after the conclusion of the 2014-15 season in Spain. There are also several countries whose seasons run from March-November each year. So a cut-off date has to be arbitrary and December 31st 2016 is that date here (though a few important events in early 2017 have managed to squeeze themselves in).

Information on some countries is scant and in one or two cases almost non-existent, while others present a bewildering array of often contradictory figures. Wherever possible I have used official figures issued by leagues and national associations. Where these aren’t available I have looked at numbers as provided on official club websites and after that reputable media outlets.

Occasionally this results in a conflict and in such instances I have opted to go for the figure more commonly used so where, for instance, I have found three sources citing a figure of 20,000 and two of 15,000 I have accepted the one with the most sources.

Inevitably there will be differences between some of the numbers here and what the reader may have seen elsewhere. Alas, there is no universally agreed format for determining exactly what constitutes an attendance. Is it all those present in the ground? Or simply those who PAID to gain admission? Does it include those who paid for admission but didn’t turn up? Are complimentary tickets to be included? Visiting officials and staff? Police and stewards taking a sneaky look at the action? Catering stall workers craning their necks over their customers’ heads to catch a glimpse of the game? The press and TV crews?

At first glance some of these suggestions may seem strange, but consider this: the record attendance for any match ever played in Europe was the Scotland v England international in May 1937. Two figures are often mentioned in the record books – 149,415 and 149,547. How can the discrepancy of 132 between the two figures be explained? Well, there were exactly 132 places in the Hampden Park press box.

At any rate I hope this illustrates the problems that can arise when assessing the accuracy of the crowd numbers or at least explain why you will often see two or more different attendances claimed for the same match. But while I can’t claim 100% accuracy for the content herein and fully accept any errors are mine and mine alone (for which please accept humble advance apologies), I am confident that the information contained is as accurate as is possible and that the general conclusions regarding totals, averages, occupancy rate and rankings are correct and any minor discrepancies would have no impact on them.

I mentioned previously the difficulty in finding a suitable cut-off point for inclusion. The same applies to introductions. Thanks for buying.

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