Seasiders insist crowd figures add up

Blackpool's chief executive Alex Cowdery has played down claims this season's published attendance figures are inaccurate.

Tuesday, 11th October 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 6:52 pm
Fans at Bloomfield Road

Attendances for home fixtures remain a bone of contention for many Blackpool fans, especially those who continue to boycott the club’s games in protest against the owners.

At the latest meeting of the Fans’ Progress Group (FPG), which was also attended by chairman Karl Oyston and manager Gary Bowyer, those in attendance were told that the official attendance figures are indeed correct.

“The figures include season ticket holders plus additional matchday ticket sales and away supporters, which is the same policy as all other clubs,” said Mr Cowdery, who also confirmed to club had sold 1,545 season tickets.

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Blackpool have had an average gate of 3,596 for their six home league games this season, a figure boosted by the large away following from Carlisle in September.

The lowest crowd was for the Tuesday night fixture against Portsmouth, which was attended by 3,055 fans.

However, many have suggested the crowds are far lower than what has been published.

Christine Seddon, deputy chair of the Blackpool Supporters’ Trust (BST), said the attendance figures are ‘misleading’.

She said: “We believe that the football club are issuing attendance figures which are misleading in an attempt to show that ‘everything is fine’.

“They do not reflect the actual number of people going through the turnstiles on match days and everything is not fine.

“In an effort to establish the true figures, BST have organised a ‘forensic count’ of attendees based on photographs sent to us by visiting fans. As an example, the official attendance against Carlisle was given as 2,751 home fans but our count of actual people in the stadium was nearer to 1,000.

“Even allowing for season ticket holders who may not have been present, people who were not in their seat at that moment and complimentary tickets, the difference of 1,720 between the official figure and reality needs explaining.

“We are aware that the club are handing out ever greater numbers of free tickets prior to home games – are these being included in the figure, even though many are evidently not being used?”

At the meeting, which was held on Monday, September 19, the FPG also asked the club if there were any plans in place to help create a positive atmosphere at Bloomfield Road.

Knowing some supporters may never come back while the club remains under its current ownership, the FPG suggested that the current age profile of supporters attendings matches is increasing and that targeting youngsters should be a priority.

Karl Oyston replied by saying the club provided free admission for Under-11s.

When asked to provide an update on legal action being taken against supporters following the pitch invasion against Huddersfield in May 2015, Mr Oyston said: “Ten supporters have now been identified from the match abandonment and subsequent FA disciplinary action and are about to be sent letters to inform them of legal action. They are the only ones to have action taken against them.

“I expect the letters will be sent out soon, while many more will be written to and told they’re still banned unless they sign an acceptable behaviour agreement. Still, none have come forward to sign the form yet, maybe in case they fear that they are one of the ten being sued. But this is not the case.

“Those who sign the acceptable behaviour agreement will have their ban lifted and will not be subjected to legal action and that will end the matter for them.”

The FPG replied: “We have tried on many occasions to persuade you not to seek financial damages against the ten you mention and deal with them in another way. Is there nothing else we can do or say to change this?”

Mr Oyston replied: “No. I know you’ve tried and my Dad and I did discuss it more after our last meeting as we said we would, but we’ve decided to continue. Albeit we are likely to deal with the ten on an individual basis rather than collectively.”