18 March 2013

20,000 missing Rangers Supporters: A case of Journalistic Integrity?

by Derek Miller | Guest Contributor

Rangers fans have been subjected to the publication of non-stop propaganda about their club the past couple of years. This past weekend was no different.

Fans awoke on Saturday morning to FRONT PAGE claims from the Daily Record of an exaggeration of the club’s matchday attendance figures so far this season.

For anyone that missed it:

Apparently both Old Firm clubs are over-stating their attendance figures this season by up to 20,000 per game.

Celtic’s massaging of attendance-figures this season has been no secret. But I was rather shocked to hear that the Seville-Calculator was also being deployed down Ibrox way.

So just how accurate are these claims by the Daily Record?

Before we go into that I would like to make one minor observation regarding the article that initially appeared on the paper’s website.

The original article contained this picture below of a half-empty stand:

The more eagle-eyed amongst you will notice two problems:

The badge on the scoreboard shows that the match was against Dundee United – a team that have not appeared at Ibrox this season. The player is wearing last season’s strip.

The picture is actually from last season’s Scottish cup match at Ibrox on 5th February 2012. A match that we lost 2-0 as the scoreboard indicates.

The Record clearly struggled to find any photographic evidence of a mass of empty seats at Ibrox this season.

This chronological error was pointed out to Daily Record editor in chief Alan Rennie on twitter and the picture on their website was later changed to this:

On the face of it this may seem like a genuine oversight on the part of the Record editing team. What matters most are the attendance figures contained in the article. Are Rangers really overstating their average attendances by around 10,000 as the article claims?

Without obtaining a full FOI request from Strathclyde police I cannot say for definite. Documents that the Daily Record claim to have yet have failed to publish incidentally.

However, the match against Queens Park is specifically scrutinised by the Record.

Their article states:

“When Rangers played Queen’s Park at Ibrox in October, the attendance figure published on the Scottish Football League website was 49,463. But the real number given to police was just 34,481 – a difference of 14,982.”

I would like to know exactly which source within Strathclyde police the Record obtained these figures from.

The actual FOI request, as published on Strathclyde police’s website, gives the attendance figure for this match as 46,622. Almost 12,000 more that the Record is claiming to have been advised by them.

The difference between the attendance figure given to the police and attendance figures reported by the SFL is a mere 2,841 and not 14,982 as the Record claims.

Their article though does rightly state:

“The only fans who aren’t counted are the small number in hospitality.”

This point was also clarified by Charles Green in an interview on the Keys and Gray show on Talksport last October. When asked whether he was massaging the attendance figures at Ibrox he explained that the difference between police and club attendance figures was down to a few thousands matchday hospitality guests.

Even more worryingly this misreporting of Rangers activities appears to have jumped over to the broadsheets too. Tom English wrote an article for Scotland on Sunday echoing the Record’s sentiments.

His article states:

“Yesterday’s release of the official attendance figures for both clubs as given to Strathclyde Police – as opposed to a product of the imagination of the Old Firm’s respective press departments.”

Are Rangers really the ones guilty of having an imaginative press department, Tom?

Did Mr English actually do any research, like contacting Strathclyde police himself, to check whether these figures were accurate?

Or did he merely copy and paste the figures from Saturday’s record?

I’m guessing the latter.

Anyone who has witnessed a game at Ibrox this season, be it on tv or at the match itself, could surely tell that these figures may not be completely up to scratch.

Mr English then goes on to tell us:

“Rangers’ officially recorded a combined attendance of 515,250 when in fact it was 407,909, a difference of 107,341. So the average number of people going through the doors per game was not 46,841 but 37,083. These are the statistics that Rangers have given to the police, so you have to accept that this is the true position.”

Really Tom? Are these the actual figures given to Strathclyde police? Have you done your job and actually checked this?

Mr Traynor’s advice that the only way to stop these sort of articles being written about our club is to stop buying the newspapers that print them sounds more and more attractive by the day.

On the grounds of journalistic-integrity if nothing else.