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Monday 06 September 2004
Attendance query answered

This question was answered as part of the club programme's soapbox feature and an edited version will appear in a future programme. We thought the following full answer may be of interest to supporters:

Mark Sheppard writes:
I was not the only one at the Ashford cup match who wondered if AFC were now
using the Franchise crowd calculator, this time with a downward calibration.
Even some Ashford supporters were laughing at Saturday's gate announcement,
about the only time that afternoon when they did laugh. "Here come another
2000" said one who sounded like Jim from Eastenders, as a large crowd
entered the West Bank. Indeed at one stage the Wandle end was closed, it
was so crowded. So were AFCs figures wrong, did a load of fans bunk in, or
am I and others just wrong?

Finance Director Erik Samuelson replies:
First, I?d like to explain why the Athletic End was closed. The capacity of the ground is calculated using formulae which are set out in "The Green Book", the rulebook for designated sports stadiums. Kingsmeadow is not, in fact, a designated ground but the council safety adviser expects us to use the same calculations to arrive at the safe attendance.

When I look at the capacity, which is specified for each separate area of the ground, I am always surprised to see that the capacity in the Kingston Road end is higher than in the Athletics End. When the number of people in any area is near capacity, we have to close it off or be in breach of our safety certificate, even if there seem to be empty spaces. If we lose our safety certificate, we can't play at Kingsmeadow, so we stick to the rules, taking advice from the police on a game-by-game basis.

Was the announced gate for the Ashford game accurate? Well, we think so. We have quite a sophisticated system for calculating attendances. Our process for a game like Ashford includes:
o Recording how many tickets we?ve printed.

o Allocating them to each turnstile operator.

o Counting them all out and counting them all back again, i.e. we know how many we issue to the turnstile operators and we see how many come back.

o Counting the ticket stubs as a check on sales, by turnstile.

o Calculating the value of the tickets we?ve sold and comparing it to the actual cash we?ve collected.

o Doing something similar for Main Stand ticket sales, although it is slightly more complicated.

o Applying ?segregation of function? to these roles so that the people who count the money should, wherever possible, not be the same people who record the results.

o Reconciling pre-match sales by comparing the money we?ve banked with our detailed records of the tickets we?ve sold. For the Ashford game, we were within 38 on sales of over 6,000, which is very good, in my opinion.

Most of these processes are required by the FA, but we implemented them ages ago, well before we were required to do so.

In addition to all these processes, by Sunday afternoon we usually have a key statistics report which is reviewed by the board. And, for a game like Ashford, I review the results in detail. This time, I found a couple of minor flaws which might add about 20 to the attendance. We?ll improve the procedure before the next game.

So, if there are more people in the ground than our calculations show, I?d love to know how they got there. We have even put a stop to the kids who were buying tickets and then passing them out through the gates to their friends.

Finally, for league games, we also count the season ticket stubs so we can calculate how many ST holders didn?t come. If Saturday had been a league game, we?d have needed to add about 500 to the gate as, incredibly, that number of ST holders don?t come to each game but we include them since we?ve sold them a ticket. So, if we?d said the gate was 3,196 would the crowd have believed it?

If it isn?t already obvious, all these jobs are carried out by a substantial team of volunteers and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all again very much for the time and care they put into their work.