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Why Tottenham didn’t sell out the first match at their new stadium

The headcount vs. Palace was less than expected, which ruffled a few feathers. But according to the club, it was by design.

Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

When the official attendance figures for yesterday’s match between Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace — the first ever Premier League match at Spurs’ new ground — were announced, it caused a bit of a kerfluffle on social media. Spurs’ new home has a listed capacity of 62,062, just above (he said, banteriffically) the capacity of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

But the attendance, officially sold out to the public, was credited as 59,215. That’s not only 2,947 people fewer than what the club says can fit into the stadium, it’s actually lower than the head count for Monday’s match at the Emirates between Arsenal and Newcastle (59,869).

This caused some in attendance to grumble a bit, especially after it was noted that the front two rows of the stadium were left empty and unsold, apparently purposefully, by the club.

It also brought out the predictable army of Arsenal trolls on Twitter who were only too pleased to point out that they apparently out-drew Tottenham’s shiny new stadium for a rather pedestrian home match against Toon.

So why WERE there empty seats on what was without question the biggest and most coveted Tottenham match in recent memory? Theories ranged from keeping the front two rows empty except for NFL games, to a vast conspiracy to keep Spurs fans desperate for tickets out of the stadium because... IDK, reasons.

The real reason is a lot more, well, reasonable. According to the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust, who fielded a LOT of questions about this, it was a combination of factors. These included the club being overly cautious in the first match at “full capacity” with regards to sight lines and buffers between away fans, a few people just not showing up, and due to the way the club calculates attendance numbers.

It makes total sense that the club would be a little overcautious when it comes to filling the stadium for the first time — if there are issues, it’s better to know those kinds of things ahead of time so any future problems can be smoothed away. It also makes total sense for the club to hold back some contingency tickets for emergencies, again, out of an abundance of caution. And as someone who’s day job involves working in the performing arts industry, I know that no matter how sold out a concert is, there will always, ALWAYS be people who just don’t show up.

But my favorite part of that statement is right at the end: Unlike some other clubs, — the unwritten bit here being SUCH AS ARSENAL — Spurs prefer to announce actual numbers through turnstiles, rather than tickets sold. I can get behind that method of calculating attendance, as it reflects who’s actually there and not just who bought tickets to the match.

The good news is now that the first match is in the bag, it appears Spurs will be opening more of those empty seats to fans who want to attend future home matches. And since it also appears that season ticket holders were not granted seats in those first couple of rows, it implies that those seats might find their way into the hands of future one-off attendees. Like, for example and purely hypothetically, me. Or you!