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They’re not actually there…

Submitted by on February 7, 2014 – 9:42 pmOne Comment


Finally someone has broken ranks with the blue narrative and made an excellent point about our backward neighbours’ inability to fill the council’s stadium, despite them going through their most successful period ever.

This by David Lynch in the uncharacteristically spot on MEN following City’s defeat to Chelsea and announcement of ground expansion plans:

It might be hard to see the positives from City’s 1-0 Premier League defeat to Chelsea, though there is one rather contrived upside.

Had the Blues extended a remarkable run at the Etihad Stadium by underlining their title credentials with a thumping win over Jose Mourinho’s men then their detractors would have looked for other weaknesses to probe.

And on Monday evening there was one shortcoming off the pitch which was made patently obvious by the glare of the world’s television cameras.

Namely that the stadium was not full.

To be clear, this is no attempt to dredge up the tired “Emptihad” routine, or an opportunity to question whether supporters have in fact turned up dressed as seats.

But this is the elephant in the room that City fans must confront without a nudge from their neighbours if Sheikh Mansour’s plans to build the biggest club in the world are to bear fruit.

If the stadium is not full during a high-profile clash against the club’s most credible title rivals then questions quite simply have to be asked.

There were swathes of empty seats visible on television, and it’s not hard to believe that some out of the gaze of the viewer might also have been.

It makes talk of increasing the capacity to 60,000+ look like utter folly.

What message would a half-vacant stadium send to potential City fans around the world? And how can an atmosphere be fostered if there are gaps between the fans attempting to generate it?

City are one of the few clubs who are making steps to increase attendance through affordable ticket schemes such as offering three Champions League group games for a rather reasonable £99 this season.

Yet their work is not complete if the visit of Chelsea cannot attract a 47,805 capacity crowd.

And ensuring that fans turn out in numbers for games such as the FA Cup replay against Blackburn – where official attendance figures were given as a rather ambitious and convenient 35,000 – is another matter entirely.

Of course, the Blues’ attendances have been impressive for much of this season, with a Premier League average of 47,107 putting them fourth in the league behind only Newcastle, Arsenal and United.

The clash with the Londoners brought the attendance figure up to 47,364, which indicates that things are certainly going in the right direction at the very least.

It is also worth noting that United do not always fill their sizeable stadium for low-key cup games (though they won’t have to worry about that for the rest of the season).

However, expanding the Etihad must be done in line with bumper attendances so that the atmosphere is not killed in one fell swoop.

If that is done by making tickets available for younger fans then we all win – but following other clubs in using massaged figures will not fool anyone when the gaps are so easily spotted.

One Comment »

  • TH says:

    A follow up to this story appeared on this newspaper industry website:

    It prompted a number of angry responses from City fans who took to the Bluemoon forum to air their views.

    One Manchester City fan, writing under the name of Damocles, wrote: “That is stunning in it’s ignorance. Really, I’m actually stunned that this is printed in a newspaper. I see the idea of quality control has just disappeared from the MEN.”

    Fellow City fan Sefiruso added: “This is just embarrassing, to think this guy gets paid to write some drivel offends me more than what he actually wrote.

    “Not everyone can shift sell or even give away their seat to someone they trust and this happens at all premier league grounds especially for midweek games.”

    The article angered several Manchester City fans

    Supercity88 wrote: “I will trust the club’s own feasibility studies ahead of an article that shows that a couple of seats here and there are empty.

    “A lot of those were in the family stand where people are no doubt having to take their nippers to the toilet during the match.”

    David defended himself on his Twitter page by writing: “If people are buying tickets and not turning up, that’s going to look awful in a 60,000-seater. A better ticket exchange needed.”

    The MEN also published a counter article on the empty seats issue written by another sport reporter, Stuart Brennan, who said it was “not surprising” there were a few empty seats at a Monday night match.

    “If there were significant areas of empty seats in the home areas, they were not evident to the naked eye on the night,” wrote Stuart.

    “There may have been pockets of empty seats, but that does happen, especially at night matches, when season ticket holders who live some distance from the ground cannot get time off work, or kids have to be up for school in the morning, and so on.”

    MEN editor Rob Irvine tweeted: “@MUFCemptyseats @david_lynch88 had a view which @StuBrennanMEN disputed.Nowt wrong with a debate, I went and was surprised at empty seats.”

    The Evening News declined to comment further.

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