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Football club attendances: Are fans getting the full picture?

For some West Ham fans, it’s not been much fun at London Stadium recently – but at least when the attendances were announced last season many were able to manage a wry smile.

It’s a moment replicated in football stadiums across the country as fans hear the attendance, look at the number of empty seats and ask: ‘Really?’

Last season, Arsenal were under scrutiny as supporters appeared to stay away from Emirates Stadium during manager Arsene Wenger’s final season. Even pundits joked about the club’s official near-capacity attendance compared with the gaps clearly visible in the stadium.

But they aren’t the only Premier League club where official attendances appeared inaccurate.

West Ham and Man City show discrepancies

BBC Sport sent Freedom of Information requests to the relevant police forces and local councils for all 20 Premier League teams, asking whether they had figures for the actual number of people in the stadium for each game last season.

Most said they did not hold that information, directing us to figures published by the club.

But we received eight responses, relating to seven clubs. At six of those clubs, police and/or council figures differed from the official published attendances.

Although the figures only covered games which the authorities attended, some of the results were revealing:

Average attendances per club
Club (% of capacity) FOI (% of capacity) Difference (% of capacity)
*based on 12 games; ** based on six games; *** based on four games
West Ham 55,309 (97%) 42,779* (75%) 12,530 (22%)
Man City 53,274 (97%) 45,792* (83%) 7,482 (14%)
Southampton 29,906 (92%) 25,660 (79%) 4,246 (13%)
Tottenham 61,843 (69%) 58,103 (65%) 3,740 (4%)
Chelsea 40,593 (98%) 37,088** (89%) 3,505 (8%)
Watford 20,319 (95%) 17,171*** (80%) 2,602 (15%)
Man Utd 73,575 (98%) 73,575* (98%) 0 (0%)
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