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The Question About the Number of Spectators at the Stadium, Shepherds Bush 1912

According to contemporary newspaper reports, 62,000 spectators watched the Southern League match between Queens Park Rangers and Southampton on April 5, 1912. The report was highlighted by Mark Shaul in the book The History of Queens Park Rangers History published in 1990.

This has been considered by the club to be incorrect and due to a mistake from the newspapers. According to the club, the correct number of spectators should be 26,000. In Independent Rangers, edited by Steve Russel, the club's reasoning is explained. Gordon Macey is official club historian:

What does the task look like in the newspapers then? After searching for the match in the British Newspaper Archive, I found this headline from Sporting Life:

This does not seem to be a typo or? Time to get to the bottom of it.

Why was the match not played at QPR's arena Park Royal Ground but at the Stadium, Shepherds Bush?

Park Royal Ground was located outside the building about 4 miles (6,4 kilometers) to Queens Park. To get to the matches, extra trains went from west and central London to Park Royal. Adjacent to the arena was the railway station Park Royal. Just when this match was to be played, it was a coal strike that affected railway traffic. QPR had to find a replacement arena and the choice fell on the Stadium, Shepherd's Bush.

Facts about the arena the Stadium later called the White City Ground

Arena:
Built 1908, demolished 1985
Built to be an Olympic arena
Located at the corner of Wood Lane and South Africa Road
Use:
1908 London Olympics:
Marathon (finish), Rugby Union final, gymnastics, swimming, football etc.
Football:
1966 FIFA World Cup Uruguay - France
Queens Park Rangers (1931–33, 1962–63)
Rugby:
London Highfield (1933)
Speedway:
White City Rebels (1976–78)
Greyhound Racing:
Greyhound Racing Association (1926–84:

The newspaper must have turned the numbers around and 26,000 is the probable number of spectators

The following arguments have been put forward:

1 - The arena only took 60,000 spectators, which shows that 62,000 is an incorrect figure
2 - Normally QPR usually had less than 10,000 spectators in 1911-12 and the difference to 62,000 is too big
3 - The match the next day against Stoke had only 20,000 spectators
4 - The conclusion that it is a printing error from the newspaper
5 - Conclusion

Discussion of the arguments

1 - The arena only took 60,000 spectators, which shows that 62,000 is an incorrect figure


Text 1

According to the London Evening Standard, the arena took 80,000 spectators in 1912. The club's argument of 60,000 is incorrect. There is also a history published by the BBC about White City on which the Wiki attendances are based on. According to the BBC via wiki, the capacity was 93,000 spectators, of which 68,000 were seated. The Greyhound Derby Final in 1939 had 92,000 spectators. In fact, Park Royal Ground actually had a capacity of 60,000 spectators. It may have been a mix-up.

2 - The normal, QPR usually had less than 10,000 spectators in 1911-12 and the difference to 62,000 is too big

QPR's attendances for the 1911-12 season.
QPR, The Complete record, Macey 2009.
Attendances English football
Sporting Life, ca october 1911

Text 2
Text 3

QPR's home average of 10,395 spectators was compared to the best London team: Woolwich Arsenal in Division 1, which had 11,630 spectators at home. The best number of attendances in London was Chelsea with an average of 26,295 spectators. They won Division 2 that year. The Southern League was considered the second best league after Division 1, but when it entered the Football League, the Southern League ended up as Division 3.

QPR were also in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 1910 and were knocked out by Barnsley. What is striking is the big difference in attendances: 5,000 against Millwall while 25,000 against West Ham and Swindon. This may be related to QPR's normal ground Park Royal, which was situated outside QPR's core area. It may depend on the opposition and the day the match was played. Had QPR played at more central location, perhaps they should have been able to match Chelsea's figures. Woolwich Arsenal changed their name and moved to Highbury in 1913, doubling their crowd.

QPR was not above with an attendances of 25,000 so 26,000 had not been anything out of the ordinary.


3 - The match the next day against Stoke had only 20,000 spectators


Text 4

Text 5

The information about 20,000 spectators in the match against Stoke is correct. In the Referee, the attendances for Saturday's match against Stoke was discussed (Text 5). The number of spectators was estimated to have been between 30,000 and 40,000. They write "However, there were divided opinions about the number, and no official figure came in handy last night". Apparently, 20,000 became the official figure.

4 - Is it a printing error in the newspaper?

Sporting Life - Match report, Text 6 QPR - Swindon 25 000 spectators, Text 7

 

 


Text 8

Sporting Life is the magazine that has the most detailed report. They have had a journalist in place and he also mentions the large crowd as "enormous attendances, imense crowd, record crowd". Of course, this journalist has visited matches with a large audience. Maybe Chelsea have had over 40,000?. This has to be more and the ordinary. Thats why the superlatives are used. The reporter should easily determine if there are 62,000 or 26,000 in a ground.

It is only Sporting Life's text that has been sold on to other newspapers such as the Daily Mail, but the match report has gone to newspapers all over the country. These notices are much more concise. The London Evning Standard (Text 8) is an example of this. The strange thing is that they have reported 65,000 attendances. This could be a typo. The report come from Sporting Life's text. Sporting Life was the largest sports magazine during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are two competitors The Sportsman and the Referee.

5 - Conclusion

62,000 spectators can be accommodated in an arena with a capacity of 80,000 spectators. It was not unusual for the club to have 20,000 and more spectators. Thats the case in 5 of 19 matches played. The match against Swindon (Text 7) there were 25,000 spectators which did not receive any superlatives such as "enormous attendances, imense crowd, record crowd". The theory of printing errors and reversals between 62,000 and 26,000 falls. However, the difference is big in the matches against Southampton 62,000 and Stoke (20,000). Sporting Life explain it by saying that it is Stoke. Probably they mean that the club is located in the midlands and not as Southampton relatively close. It needs to be investigated more. Why could there be such a large audience? The difference between 62,000 and 20,000 the next day feels a little too big, so I add another point about how the attendances survey took place.

Why could there be such a large attendances?
1 - Good Friday
2 - Table standings
3 - Expectations before the match

1 - Good Friday


Text 9

Good Friday is the day of the year when you can get the most spectators to a football match. The people are free but there are few other activities to visit. That was the case in the past. Almost exclusively religious events, outdoor activities and three professional football matches: Woolwich, Fulham and so on at the Stadium, Shepherds Bush: Queens Park Rangers who can take important points in the battle for victory in the Southern League.

According to the article (Text 9), some railways could be operated. The electric tramways operated (trafficking Shepherds Bush) and then the electrified Central Railway (Central Line) should also have been running. The one that had its terminus in White City. It facilitates large attendances at the Stadium.

Table Standnings

Text 10

It's Easter and then the leagues are usually decided in England. QPR is top of the league while Swindon with 3 games less played has a chance to deprive QPR of the league title. The winner will then face the winner of the Football League at Charity Shield. Opponents Southampton and Stoke was both in the bottom half. Southampton should fight for avoid relegation to Division 2.

Expectations before the match

Text 11 Text 12

QPR had high expectations of a large attendances for the matches. They advertised extensively (Text 11), which was not common, the normal the fans had to follow the Fixture list that was published in the newspapers. The newspapers also write about the great expectation of "large attendances (Text 12)".

How was the spectators measured in 1912?
Turning crosses became common on football grounds since the 1890s when a new type of turning cross began to be sold. Before the time of the turnstiles, spectators entered through special "gates" where they were manually counted by a Street Man. These Street Men had a hard time keeping up with the correct counting of the spectators. The first football arena to install turnstiles was Hampden Park in Glasgow as early as the start in 1873. Such a large and brand new arena as the Stadium probably had the latest technology. The counting of spectators has been correct. Can the number of spectators be cut for any other reason? There is an ambitious club that needs a new arena!

Arsenal move from Woolwich

Text 13

The answer to the question about the number of spectators at the Stadium, Shepherds Bush 1912:

The answer is that there was huge attendances at the Stadium on April 5, 1912. The stated attendances of 62,000 spectators is entirely possible, but it could have been styled to attract Arsenal to the Stadium.

In order to assert 26,000 spectators, one must find such a statement in contemporary newspapers and assert it in a credible way. I have searched and found nothing like that.

The only thing that disturbs the figure of 62000 is the figure for the match against Stoke the next day of 20,000. In the one hand, the Friday match is heated and is the pleasure of the news and also it’s Good Friday. Even when I was young, Good Friday was completely dead. There was nothing to do.

There is information in the competing newspaper The Refeere that there were different opinions about a estimated attendance figure against Stoke of 30,000 or 40,000. Experienced football supporters or writers have no problem estimating attendances. It may be that 20,000 is deliberately set too low. It can be a way to trick with the revenue but there is also a possibility that 62000 is a bit too high in aim to attract Arsenal and the real figure could be around 50,000. Lower then 50,000 gives too little differences. The total must be correct for accounting reason (62’+20’ = 52’+30’). In any case, it must have been the highest number of spectators for Rangers.

If you want to arrange a football match in the 20th century that gives an extraordinary large attendances, choose Good Friday in a brand new Stadium.