Thank you for attending this evening’s Sky Bet League One fixture with Shrewsbury Town and a warm welcome to everybody who has travelled from Shropshire.
Tonight's match comes just three days after Saturday’s very special occasion, when we welcomed supporters back, in unrestricted numbers, after a gap of 17 months. It was terrific to meet several of you before kick-off and to appreciate first-hand how much Pompey means to everybody. There were so many smiles on faces – and even more at 5pm after such an energetic and terrific display from our players. The atmosphere inside and outside Fratton Park demonstrated just how much the club means to you all and we must do all we can to preserve the current government concessions on unrestricted attendances.
I would like to thank everyone for arriving in good time and respecting the Covid Code of Conduct. We were able to admit everyone inside the stadium before kick-off, with no major queues. Given some of the entry problems at other clubs over the past two weekends, this can be deemed a joint success, both for supporters and our safety and stewarding teams.
I appreciate there has been much comment about the announced attendance on Saturday of 11,470 and thought it might be helpful to provide a little context to that figure. Most clubs, including Pompey, declare all seats sold for a fixture when announcing an attendance for league fixtures. This means that all season ticket holders are included, whether or not they attend the game, because their seats have been sold. This partially explains why attendance figures are lower for cup matches, when season ticket holders must purchase their seat.
In August, all football clubs are affected by a large no-show of season ticket holders, mainly due to holidays or work commitments. At Pompey, I understand this August ‘no-show’ figure is usually around 15-20 per cent, which broadly corresponds to my own experience at both Norwich City and MK Dons.
Our flexi-ticket arrangement for the first three games of this season means that everyone has to purchase a seat, so season ticket numbers were not included for Saturday, or indeed tonight, as would normally be the case.
Previously, if Pompey announced a crowd of 17,000 for an August fixture, the likelihood is that the real attendance would have been around 14,500. On Saturday, the attendance of 11,470, (the actual number of spectators in the ground), would have probably equated under normal August circumstances to an announced attendance of 14,000. While naturally this is still lower than what we would have all wanted, Covid remains a factor in many people’s minds. Many regular supporters do not yet have the confidence to attend venues where large crowds are present or are nervous to use public transport.
Comparisons with other clubs’ attendance numbers on Saturday need to be treated with a degree of caution. Most other clubs have already issued season tickets, so consequently their numbers will have included several no-shows, perhaps as many as 20 per cent if the norm is anything to go by.
I cannot, of course, rule out the impact of ticketing issues experienced by some supporters in the run-up to the game and which I covered with a personal apology in my notes on Saturday. We have lessons to learn and I am committed to personally leading a full review of all the different ticketing processes at Pompey. I am pleased to report that on Saturday, the queues from 10am at the ticket office were minimal and to the best of my knowledge, most problems were quickly and satisfactorily resolved.
I think it is only fair to acknowledge that our usual attendance numbers will go on to be impacted throughout the season. Safety capacity cuts will play a part, but also the concession to provide flexi-season ticket holders with a choice. They have the option to either purchase a full season ticket or are alternatively able to select seats on a game-by-game basis. We believe this is the right thing to do for our loyal supporters until such time as everyone has fuller confidence to attend fixtures on a regular basis. This will mean that only those who elect for a full season ticket for all the games will be counted in the numbers, whether or not they show up. The smaller number of full season ticket holders will therefore affect the announced attendance.
I hope this helps to provide a little more informed background as to how attendance figures are reported at most football clubs. We very much hope, as the country slowly returns to normal and as the holiday season comes to an end, that demand for tickets will naturally increase, only adding further to the fantastic backing we experienced on Saturday.
Thank you for attending tonight and I hope you are treated to another great occasion at Fratton Park.
Enjoy the game!