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Why Do Football Clubs Lie About Attendance Figures?

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It's beginning to bug me, is this

Jan Kruger/Getty Images

In the past two weeks, we've been informed by Bolton Wanderers themselves that attendances have been fairly healthy - which is a surprise, given how terrible we've been for the past (three) seasons.

We're supposed to believe that more than 18,000 supporters turned up for the Middlesbrough game.

We're supposed to swallow their claim, too, that there were over 12,000 fans at the Charlton Athletic game on Tuesday night.

Now I'm not one to call shenanigans too often, but even if they counted each fan twice there is no way on earth those figures are accurate.

The Guardian wrote in 2013:

Manchester United are adding as many as 24,000 fans on to crowd attendances compared with the actual number of people watching games at Old Trafford, according to police data.

When United played Cluj in the Champions League in December, having qualified for the knockout stages, the crowd was announced as 71,521. In fact, the police say it was 46,894.

United's largest crowd of the season for a league match, according to the police, was 69,933 for Liverpool's visit in January (the club put it at 75,501).

The lowest was against Southampton later that month. On that occasion the official attendance was given at 75,600 when, according to the police, the genuine figure was 59,766. In other words, almost 16,000 ticket-holders stayed away.

The current thought is that modern day attendances are based on the number of tickets sold as opposed to the number of people through the turnstiles - this obviously then means the figures released are not a true reflection of the number of people in each ground.

So why do Bolton so obviously play along with this practice?

Take a look at the photo that accompanies this piece - the away end held no more than 300 Charlton fans. The home end was no more occupied. Need room to spread out? No problem - you could have had twenty seats to yourself in the East Lower.

I know that the club would want to save face in light of our deteriorating performances, and so to announce crowds of 7-8,000 would be embarrassing - but really, what would the harm be in just telling us the truth?