Premier League clubs have been caught exaggerating their home attendance by as many 12,000 spectators per match.
A study by the BBC has revealed huge discrepancies in the official attendance figures released by the clubs, and those recorded by local authorities.
In fact, of the seven Premier League clubs where the independent data was available, only Manchester United hadn’t inflated their figures.
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West Ham were the worst culprits but Manchester City, Southampton and Watford were not far behind in the discrepancies. Tottenham and Chelsea were also found to have officially overstated crowd numbers at games.
Figures divulged by Newham council following a Freedom of Information request by the BBC revealed that, across the 12 matches they attended at the London Stadium last term, they recorded an average crowd of 42,779 – way short of the Hammers’ official record of more than 55,000.
In fact, in West Ham’s match against West Brom on January 2, the club’s official attendance was 56,888 but the council said it was 39,365 – a difference of 17,523 fans.
While West Ham endured a poor season in a stadium many of their own fans don’t like, the empty seats at the home of the champions a little more difficult to explain.
City reported an average of 53,274 fans but Greater Manchester Police’s average figures were almost 7500 lower. This means City’s actual average home attendance was less than 46,000, and with the Eithad Stadium’s capacity listed as 55,097, that means the ground was on average only 83 per cent full for each home match.
That included the figures from the match against Southampton in November, where their attendance of 53,407 was 15,277 lower than the actual number of bodies inside the ground — 38,130.
Interestingly, there was no disparity between the figures released by Manchester United and those collected by Greater Manchester Police and Trafford council.
One club where the actual crowd attendance appeared to lower than club figures last season was at Arsenal.
The official average was 57,054 at Emirates Stadium last season – 2,813 short of the 59,867 capacity – but the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust claims the actual average attendance was about 46,000. However, the Freedom of Information request was unable to confirm or deny either figures.
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Tottenham were found to have inflated their figures by just under 4000, but strangely there were five matches at which Tottenham’s published number of tickets sold was lower than the council’s attendance figure.
The club even under-reported their north London derby match against Arsenal, which was the Premier League’s record attendance. The club said 83,222 people attended the match when official figures showed it was actually 83,290.