Soccer History Magazine, Issue 21

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Soccer History Magazine, Issue 21

Post by soccerhistory » Sun Dec 28, 2008 10:36 pm

Issue 21 of Soccer History Magazine is now available. The contents include a detailed look at Scottish football when war broke out in September 1939 and how the regional structure of East and West Leagues emerged.

Further details and information on how to obtain a copy can be found here: http://soccerhistory.wordpress.com/2008/12/24/issue-21/

Copies are being posted to subscribers this week.

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Post by Scottish » Tue Jan 13, 2009 2:22 am

Excellent, as always. Just a comment on Clyde. The same situation arose in 1967 as in wartime when they argued that Shawfield was beyond the Glasgow city boundary but on that occasion they were unsuccessful in their attempt to enter the Fairs Cup

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Post by Scottish » Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:54 am

For anyone confused by what this refers to, use the link above to buy the magazine

Just a few thoughts on the article on attendances. You wrote "In Scotland it was the practice to add on a nominal figure for season ticket holders during the 1960s." I don't think it's at all clear this was the case until the SFL's figures provide a more accurate breakdown (from 1971-72 onwards). I certainly wouldn't say it was "the practice" as many clubs didn't do this. You also say the figure was "static" and didn't "reflect sales for that particular season."

Up to a point. Rangers, for instance, declared 2,851 season ticket holders in 1972-73, 3,330 in 73-74, 2,715 in 74-75 and 3,062 in 75-76. There is no reason to believe these figures aren't accurate for each season. A different matter of course from asserting each and every ST holder attended every match.

Though some clubs did precisely as you suggest. Stirling Albion added 300 ST holders to their crowd at each and every match for several seasons. Montrose added 350 for every match for three successive seasons before upping it to between 400-430. A few years later though they said they had 358 then 261 (though still adding them to virtually every match) which look more accurate than the blanket 350.

Forfar often drew praise in the late 1970s/early 1980s for drawing four-figure gates from such a small population base. It was made easier for them by adding 500 to every match. Though IMHO the worst offenders were Clydebank. At one time they added 800 ST holders to every game yet still recorded sub-1,000 gates from time to time.

The oft-cited attendance of 430 v Dundee United is actually officially recorded as 1030 thanks to the "presence" of 600 ST holders.

You mention Berwick as one of those clubs who'd routinely add 200 to the gate but they were comparatively modest, usually adding only between 20-40 to each match until 1977-78 when, bizarrely, after adding between 20-30 for the first half of the season they suddenly bumped it up to 200 per match for the rest.

As for the effects on figures the OF could be distorted just as easily as the rest. I often cite the infamous occasions at the end of 1971-72 when the addition of the entire Ibrox season ticket allocation meant that ST holders outnumbered paying adults by 2-1.

On the question of varying crowd figures between kick-off and later in the match you mention that most people worked half-days Saturdays and would often arrive late for the game. As you rightly point out many papers would make mention of what the gate was at the start of the second half. One other reason for late arrival in addition to those you mention was earlier kick-of times, particularly in winter during the pre-floodlit era.

One final point re the availability of Scottish figures. I believe that the SFL did hold figures prior to 1961 but these have since been lost. It's just another example of the carelessness with which the Scottish football heritage has been regarded over the years.

You mention WBA having figures available from the 19th century. They are a good example. We know the exact WBA attendance figure for an FA Cup tie in November 1882 yet don't have a clue about Scottish Cup gates from September 2008!

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Post by soccerhistory » Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:43 pm

Much of the detail on Scotland was taken from John Litster's article on attendances in Scottish Football Historian 107, which seems to be based on his experiences at Raith and St Johnstone, and information he obtained from his father who had a spell as Head Checker at Raith. In this he also lists "Season Ticket uplift figures" for all clubs with the exception of Third Lanark and he seems to be saying that these figures remained unaltered between 1961/62 and 1971/72.

Although I wasn't too explicit in the article, I was attempting to put the case that one reason why we don't have exact figures for attendances in the early years is that the figure was of no real interest to clubs, while the amount of money taken at the gate was important as it often had to be divided up. There are some rare examples of actual attendances being published (usually only in end-of-season reviews) before 1914, the only examples I have seen being for West Brom in the early 1890s and (surprisingly) for Grantham Town in the mid 1870s (from memory). I was also putting forward the view that it is the number of paying spectators that should count and that if you are not careful you can run into all sorts of problems defining what an attendance actually is. Certainly in England there seem to be two factors that pushed attendances rather than gate receipts to the fore; the first of these was the fact that in the early days of the old Division Three North attendances at matches were often very low; the second was that there was a growing interest in the inter-war period in establishing the record attendance at each ground.

Regards to pre-1961 Scottish attendances: a possible source might be the Entertainment Tax returns for the period. Unfortunately I have no idea whether these have been retained in archives or where they might be held.

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Post by Scottish » Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:58 am

soccerhistory wrote: In this he also lists "Season Ticket uplift figures" for all clubs with the exception of Third Lanark and he seems to be saying that these figures remained unaltered between 1961/62 and 1971/72.
My reading of that article was that he suggests doing so not that they were static. He talks of assuming "unrealistically" that the figures were the same.

I am loath to criticise John Litster, who has done such tremendous work on Scottish football history for so many years but I have to disagree with his methodology here. The figures he gives are just too fantastic to be true. Ayr United with more season ticket holders than Aberdeen or Hibs and the same number as Hearts? That's bad enough but then to backdate them to 1961-62 when Ayr spent seven of the ten previous seasons in the Second Division? It goes way beyond credulity to add the same amount of season ticket holders to Ayr v Brechin year after year as Hearts v Hibs.

And that's not an isolated example. To accept those figures means accepting that Forfar had the same number of ST holders as Kilmarnock and Dunfermline and more than Dundee and Dundee United. That Arbroath carried twice as many ST holders as the Dundee teams combined.

It also assumes that promoted teams gained no benefit as their figure for Div 1 would be the same for Div 2. Conversely relegated sides would maintain their ST level.

Plus given that figures varied quite substantially over the NEXT ten years it strikes me as odd to assume they were static for the PAST decade. Hamilton for example had 150 STs added to their gates in 72-73 but 1,000 by 77-78. So why assume they had a constant 200 from 1961-1971?

Nor do the figures he mentions tally with my own researches I have Rangers as 3,390 for every match, not 3,000. I took particular interest in this on account of the low gates recorded at Ibrox in the run-up to the ECWC Final.

John also says that ST;s weren't included in 72-73 but I have Rangers as 2851 for that season, Clydebank as 800 for every match bar one (600), Berwick Rangers as adding 40 to every match, Dundee United 300, East Stirling 150, Forfar 500, Hamilton 150, Montrose 350, Stirling Albion 300 and Stranraer 260-360. I'd add that I didn't make a note of them all (time factor) but put down those most likely to impact on attendances or those which struck me as odd (Berwick, why bother? Dundee United, why so low?)
soccerhistory wrote:Although I wasn't too explicit in the article, I was attempting to put the case that one reason why we don't have exact figures for attendances in the early years is that the figure was of no real interest to clubs, while the amount of money taken at the gate was important as it often had to be divided up.
Absolutely. But one reason why some people might have wanted more exact figures is to put a check on sums issued and received so that the two could marry up. Home teams might want to deflate the figures for tax purposes and away teams want them talked up for ensure a higher payment.
soccerhistory wrote: There are some rare examples of actual attendances being published (usually only in end-of-season reviews) before 1914, the only examples I have seen being for West Brom in the early 1890s and (surprisingly) for Grantham Town in the mid 1870s (from memory).
In the WH Smith series of club histories a few years ago there were exact figures given not just for WBA home but also for some away games. Not just FA Cup games either. For 1888-89 gates of 4,254 at Stoke, 4,230 at Bolton are given as well as home crowds of 3,448 v Notts County, 4,896 v Stoke and 8,515 v Villa. The estimates are better too, being of the .2, .7 etc variety rather than two or three zeroes. Though it's really only from 1898 onwards that exact figures become the norm and estimates the exception. That includes aways as well. I know of no other example as well documented before 1925-26.
soccerhistory wrote: I was also putting forward the view that it is the number of paying spectators that should count and that if you are not careful you can run into all sorts of problems defining what an attendance actually is.
I think it's virtually impossible to define what an attendance is. To take it as paying spectators only would mean that for the first seven years or so that I watched football I wasn't actually 'attending' as I never paid while I was still small enough to be given a lift over the turnstile.
soccerhistory wrote:Regards to pre-1961 Scottish attendances: a possible source might be the Entertainment Tax returns for the period. Unfortunately I have no idea whether these have been retained in archives or where they might be held.
It's Entertainment Tax (among other things, not least the belief of David Thomson at the SFL and the manifold references in the press throughout the decades to figures issued by the SFL) which leads me to believe that detailed figures must have been kept before the 1960s. I still live in hope that they'll turn up in a drawer somewhere.

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Post by soccerhistory » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:36 am

In the WH Smith series of club histories a few years ago there were exact figures given not just for WBA home but also for some away games. Not just FA Cup games either. For 1888-89 gates of 4,254 at Stoke, 4,230 at Bolton are given as well as home crowds of 3,448 v Notts County, 4,896 v Stoke and 8,515 v Villa. The estimates are better too, being of the .2, .7 etc variety rather than two or three zeroes. Though it's really only from 1898 onwards that exact figures become the norm and estimates the exception. That includes aways as well. I know of no other example as well documented before 1925-26.
Without going into too much detail, the fact that exact attendances exist for West Brom and not for other clubs during this period has often been a matter of controversy for statisticians. I mentioned that exact figures were produced in the press for home games in the 1890s because I am aware the existence of these have been questioned. These were not included in match reports, but in an end-of-season review. However, I do not know the source of exact attendances at away games at this time. If you take Lincoln as an example, exact numbers are fairly common for FA Cup games pre-WW1, but apart from a handful of games in the early 1920s there are only estimates. It should be noted that the Football League banned the publication of attendances for many years.

One other point, I recently discovered that the senior clubs in Edinburgh (Hearts, Hibs, St Bernard's, Leith) generally kicked off (light permitting) at 4.00 pm in the late 1890s. If most working men finished their jobs at midday there should have been no excuse to turn up after kick off unless of course they had 'social' reasons requiring a quenching of thirst.

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Post by Scottish » Thu Jan 15, 2009 12:59 am

That seems a similar pattern to Scotland where, from around the beginning of the 20th century more and more detailed figures appeared for Scottish Cup ties. But I've never come across any suggestion of a ban imposed by the SFL.

I've seen occasional pre-1925 figures for several English clubs but only in the context of club histories and have assumed these must come from club records.

I think I'm right in saying that pubs would still be open at 4.00 pm in the 1890s in Edinburgh. I wonder if it is coincidence that Scottish football's best years for crowds came when the pubs shut at 2.30 and didn't re-open until 5.00 pm?

Certainly those hours couldn't have been better designed from the POV of a football club.

Just going back to a couple of your earlier points. I can understand the low attendances in the Third North. With very few exceptions these clubs all came from - or close to - areas with already well-established League clubs. This was in sharp distinction to the Third/Third South. Apart from the fact that the clubs in that sphere came from the already-existing Southern League, which certainly didn't consider itself to be an inferior body, they also encompassed large cities previously unrepresented in the FL like Southampton, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol and Norwich as well as all of London south of the river.

Though even then there were, according to Brian Tabner's 'Through The Turnstiles,' only three occasions when a club averaged under 2,000 in a season.

Finally, entertainment tax. A search on the National Archives site produces hundreds of results. Whether any are relevant or not I have no idea as I do not possess the IQ of 200+ necessary in order to understand how the site works.

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Post by Scottish » Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:51 am

One area where it has been really difficult to find attendance information is Northern Ireland. This season the Irish League have issued figures for some matches but not all. They are obviously collecting full details as they have just announced an 11% rise for the first half of the season. More details here . Click on results then report for line-ups, scorers and - occasionally - crowds.

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