Edelman takes issue with 'spurious numbers'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2005, 12:00am

Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman has hit out at suggestions there is a general decline in attendances in the English Premiership, rejecting projected crowd figures as 'spurious numbers'.

Edelman, who is in Hong Kong to promote a residential development on the site of their Highbury ground once their new Ashburton Grove stadium is completed, thinks the Premiership remains healthy and there was no need to panic.

'People give you numbers not very carefully at the beginning of the season,' said Edelman. 'What's happened is that we [Arsenal] haven't played as many games as other teams. Nor have Liverpool. Obviously, we have very big gates. So if you adjust all of that, it's a very small number of fewer fans who have visited the Premier League.

'But it's in the hundreds and not half a million as people are mentioning. I think it's far too early in the season to be analytical without looking at it very carefully, which people haven't done.

'I think there isn't a generic problem in the attendance in the Premiership and Arsenal and Liverpool were full for every match. We have 35,000 people on our season ticket waiting list.

'We have 20,000 people on the match day waiting list who are trying to get on the membership scheme to buy tickets. We are very confident we will fill our new stadium [Emirates Stadium] to capacity.

'That comes online next season and what you're going to see is the Premiership attendances going up. So a lot of clubs like us who are actually restricted because we are always full and we cannot grow attendances. Next year when we are open, that will push our Premiership attendances up again. One needs to wait a bit longer to look at the attendance trend.'

Edelman also doesn't agree that Premiership games have become boring or less competitive, saying: 'I don't think that's true. I think people are drawing conclusions from inaccurate statistics. If you look at the statistics much more carefully, there isn't a big fall in attendances. The Premier league is as attractive and games are very exciting. Every game we played this year, I think, has been exciting.'

Edelman also praised Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. 'The board of directors back his judgment,' Edelman said. 'He has been a very successful manager. Arsene said he won't spend money to bring players in who aren't of a very high quality and who don't actually add to the strength to the squad.'

He said it was unfortunate striker Thierry Henry and defender Sol Campbell had been injured, and added: 'Sol is back now and played a great match against Everton [Arsenal won 2-0 with Campbell scoring both goals]. We hope Thierry will be back in a few weeks' time because it is not a major injury. We will be back to full strength.'