A regional daily newspaper came under fire from fans of a premiership football club after publishing an article about empty seats at its biggest game of the season.
The Manchester Evening News reported that Manchester City’s top-of-the-table clash with Chelsea on Monday was played out in front of a less than full Etihad Stadium and warned that the club should be careful over expansion plans as a result.
The article, written by sports reporter David Lynch, was accompanied by a screen-grab image from Match of the Day 2 with unfilled seats circled in red.
But it prompted an angry backlash from fans after being posted on the website of Bluemoon-MCFC – an unofficial Manchester City forum – with supporters accusing the paper of “stunning ignorance.”
David’s piece state that the number of empty seats at the Etihad Stadium was “the elephant in the room that City fans must confront without a nudge from their neighbours if Sheikh Mansour’s plans to build the biggest club in the world are to bear fruit.”
“If the stadium is not full during a high-profile clash against the club’s most credible title rivals then questions quite simply have to be asked,” he wrote.
“There were swathes of empty seats visible on television, and it’s not hard to believe that some out of the gaze of the viewer might also have been.
“It makes talk of increasing the capacity to 60,000+ look like utter folly.”
It prompted a number of angry responses from City fans who took to the Bluemoon forum to air their views.
One Manchester City fan, writing under the name of Damocles, wrote: “That is stunning in it’s ignorance. Really, I’m actually stunned that this is printed in a newspaper. I see the idea of quality control has just disappeared from the MEN.”
Fellow City fan Sefiruso added: “This is just embarrassing, to think this guy gets paid to write some drivel offends me more than what he actually wrote.
“Not everyone can shift sell or even give away their seat to someone they trust and this happens at all premier league grounds especially for midweek games.”
Supercity88 wrote: “I will trust the club’s own feasibility studies ahead of an article that shows that a couple of seats here and there are empty.
“A lot of those were in the family stand where people are no doubt having to take their nippers to the toilet during the match.”
David defended himself on his Twitter page by writing: “If people are buying tickets and not turning up, that’s going to look awful in a 60,000-seater. A better ticket exchange needed.”
The MEN also published a counter article on the empty seats issue written by another sport reporter, Stuart Brennan, who said it was “not surprising” there were a few empty seats at a Monday night match.
“If there were significant areas of empty seats in the home areas, they were not evident to the naked eye on the night,” wrote Stuart.
“There may have been pockets of empty seats, but that does happen, especially at night matches, when season ticket holders who live some distance from the ground cannot get time off work, or kids have to be up for school in the morning, and so on.”
MEN editor Rob Irvine tweeted: “@MUFCemptyseats @david_lynch88 had a view which @StuBrennanMEN disputed.Nowt wrong with a debate, I went and was surprised at empty seats.”
The Evening News declined to comment further.