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Thursday 12 February 2009
From the Hayes & Yeading programme

Good evening and welcome to the fans, players and officials of Hayes & Yeading United FC.

The game against Chelmsford was challenging, both on and off the pitch. I want to explain why we didn’t make that game all-ticket, and announce some other actions we are taking. First, though, I am very sorry if you were one of those we had to turn away.

Before every game, large or small, we speak to the opposition about how many fans they estimate they will bring; we speak to “our” police, who liaise with the away club’s local police; and we review previous attendances by the opposition’s fans at their away games. Then we estimate the likely number of visiting fans.

Chelmsford officials told us that there were five coaches coming - say 300 fans. We doubled that to allow for fans travelling independently and then (since this is an art, not a science) we added 100. So we estimated that, at most, there would be 700 away fans. They had never brought more than 200 before, so our figure seemed generous. For the record, we believe that there were 600 - 650 away fans in the John Smith Stand, plus a handful in the seats. Claims that 1,000 were there imply a capacity well over 2,000 in that stand, which is nonsense.

Assuming 700 Chelmsford fans, we then estimated the total attendance as between 3,900 and 4,200. No-one thought we’d sell out. Remember that an announced crowd of 4,200 includes all season ticket holders, whether or not they actually attend, so we all felt pretty certain that, while Kingsmeadow would be very busy, we wouldn’t reach our capacity of 4,700.

On the day it became clear that we had a much larger crowd than anticipated, so we needed to make sure that no area of the ground got overcrowded. We keep running totals of ticket sales, and it was also becoming obvious to an experienced eye that the ground was filling up. We couldn’t tell exactly how many more season ticket holders would turn up, so, based on the reported data and our experience, plus advice from the police, we decided to close first the Tempest End and then the Kingston Road End on health and safety grounds.

We didn’t get the balance between each end quite right. The Kingston Road End was more crowded than I’d like, but after Ivor Heller had done sterling work moving some people into vacant seats, the congestion eased and we were satisfied that everyone was safe - which is always paramount.

We need to learn lessons from these events. Some matters are already in hand: for example, we will improve the view at the Kingston Road End by increasing the height and number of steps. Other things will need to wait. If we can install two turnstiles for the John Smith Stand, we can manage away fans better, but first we need to acquire the perimeter lease. We will also consider selling season tickets for specific terraces next season. But we can’t do that unless we can manage access to the John Smith Stand better than at present, which brings us back to the need for extra turnstiles.

Some fans have suggested that we should increase the size of the stadium. We have planning permission to do that, but it will be very costly and time-consuming. For the moment, we are concentrating on improving the view from the Kingston Road End, making it easier for fans to get to where they want to be in the stadium, and refining our process for deciding when to make a match all-ticket.

Enjoy the game.