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Wings Over Scotland

Were we watching the same game?

Posted on July 26, 2012 by

The headline above (and slight variants thereof) is a time-honoured response to reports of any event at which the reader’s interpretation of proceedings might differ significantly to that of the writer. Today’s press provides a striking example of the phenomenon.

While the 2012 London Olympics don’t “officially” start until tomorrow, they in fact got underway yesterday with a number of matches in the women’s football competition. Some of them took place at Hampden Park in Glasgow, where ticket sales had been extremely disappointing, in common with the other football venues but in striking contrast to the rest of the Games.

The Scotsman’s take on the opening day was unremittingly positive. Under the headline “A damp squib? Nae chance as Games belong to sunny Glasgow”, it reported a glowing reception in Scotland’s biggest city.

“After all the doubts and fears expressed over the past seven years that the Games would do little for those swathes of Britain north of Watford, the carnival atmosphere in the streets of Glasgow’s southside yesterday was a fitting riposte.

Following several days of unrelenting rain, the sun made a welcome and overdue appearance to greet thousands of visitors pouring in to watch USA play France, followed by Colombia versus DPR Korea, in the women’s football event.”

Sounds like a grand old party down Mount Florida way, doesn’t it?

“In the lead-up, there were fears that Hampden’s seats would be emptier than during the dark days of Berti Vogts’ reign over Scotland’s national side. Organisers reportedly gave away as many as 34,000 tickets for the opening tie in a stadium boasting a capacity of 52,000.

In the event, there were plenty of empty seats. But the 6,000 or so who bought tickets were jubilant to be in Glasgow, many having travelled far.”

It’d be hard to think of how anyone could put a more positive spin on the fact that barely 10% of the available tickets for the event had been sold. But still, with 6,000 tickets bought and 34,000 given away for free in a stadium holding 52,000, and glorious sunshine bathing all of Scotland for the first time in weeks, at least we’d be assured of an impressive 40,000 crowd for the great spectacle, right?

No official attendance figures were released, but we’re going to go ahead and confidently assert that the picture above indicates Hampden operating at rather less than 80% of capacity. The Scotsman’s description of “plenty of empty seats” is technically accurate, but something of an understatement. The Herald carried more details of the crowd figures in a piece by Robbie Dinwoodie that seems to have vanished from the face of the Earth since we read it early this morning, but another report in the same paper suggested that:

 “An estimated 12,000 spectators, many of whom had been given free tickets at the last minute, arrived at Hampden for the kick-off of the game between the women from the USA and France at 5pm.”

That seems a fair guess to us, based on the TV pictures, but filling even 20% of the ground was something of a peak. Later in the evening when Colombia played North Korea (in a game whose kickoff was admittedly delayed by an hour due to an embarrassing cock-up over flags), the vast bulk of those spectators had drifted away, despite the pleasant evening conditions. The Daily Record put the number remaining at just 1,000 and this image taken at half-time seems to back that assessment up:

(The BBC commentator described the attendance as “a reasonable crowd”. If you don’t believe us, or doubt that that’s really a half-time shot, you can check for yourself.)

All we’re saying is, when in future you read The Scotsman reporting on the mood and/or popularity of an event, whether it be an independence rally or a Scottish Labour conference, keep this sort of thing in mind.

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11 to “Were we watching the same game?”

  1. pa_broon says:

    Thank god for school kids, I got the distinct impression they were also pedalled out for the olympic flame carry on too. What self-respecting child would to turn down a free half day away from school?

    That last picture looks  as if there are more players and officials than spectators.

    I would also say; ‘…jubilant to be in Glasgow…’ If you say so. And I rather suspect those who ‘travelled far’ were the players.


  2. TheeForsakenOne says:

    Since the torch was running past my place of work I was able to see it without having to leave the office. I was quite surprised at the size of the crowd… until I walked by the local bus station at lunchtime just after it and saw six or eight coaches parked there. It seems Locog were unsurprisingly not against bussing in the crowds.

    On topic, I’m surprised the Scotsman of all people is pursuing that line. I expect that sort of patter from the BBC.

  3. Tris says:

    It reminds me of the day that the torch went to Edinburgh, and a BBC woman standing in front of 3/4 empty stands on the castle esplanade declaring that Edinburgh had turned out in force to see the torch. I expect she must have believed that the population of Edinburgh was around 250.

    The venues in London of course will be far busier, as they will be putting on stuff that someone might reasonably want to see, and then filling the venues with free tickets for the sponsors.

    Unfortunately in the aqua stadium 2400 seats have no view of the diving boards and a further 600 have only partial view (despite them having been sold at between 30 and 50 pounds a piece!)

    Scot Goes Pop has photographs of the stadium, which James took himself, showing how empty the place was..

  4. Doug Daniel says:

    If it was any other type of event, they’d have moved it to somewhere with a more suitable capacity. The Toryglen Regional Football Centre next door, for instance?

    Using a 52,000 seater stadium for a football match with just 1,000 spectators seems like an awful waste, and I suspect it’s not Coca Cola and McDonalds who are paying the stadium costs. 

  5. Arbroath 1320 says:

    Oops! 😀
    Oh dear, they seem to have had fewer spectators than at a Gretna 2008 game 😆 (I’m not having a go at Gretna you understand)
    Mind you I don’t think it helps them very much when the organising committee (LOCOG) can’t even get the correct flag put up on the video they sent up to Hampden! JEEZ! Who are this bunch of no hopers?

    I do love a good comedy routine but this one is just plain ridiculous. 😆

  6. Holebender says:

    pa_broon, aren’t the schools on holiday where you are? Or in Glasgow?
    I know they’re on their Summer holidays in Aberdeenshire and I’m pretty sure it’s the same throughout Scotland.

  7. Juteman says:

    I’m surprised the BBC haven’t blamed Cybernat hackers for the flag cock-up.

  8. pa_broon says:

    They are just now but weren’t for the flame when it was bestowing its hallowed glow on our benighted country.

    My point was, they bussed in school kids for the torch thing then gave away free tickets to school kids for the football, hence, thank god (if you believe in that sort of thing) for a steady supply of warm bodies to fluff the numbers up a bit.

    (As an after thought, one wonders if the schools hadn’t been on holiday, would special dispensation be given to attend the football games?)

  9. Holebender says:

    Ahhh… OK then. I misunderstood you the first time round. Mea culpa.
    To answer your afterthought, probably. I’m sure the Lord Coe Almighty himself would have issued the orders!

  10. Juteman says:

    Jim Murphy blames Scotland for the flag fiasco. My earlier post was almost correct.

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