In a recent matchday programme, Joe Palmer explained why there have been empty seats at our first home games this season.
The article is reproduced in full below.
As I’ve said before, our new stadium already feels like our new home with a real buzz and atmosphere that is unique to us.
Naturally, it helps to have so much more room, not just for our own fans but for visiting supporters as well. The main Cappagh Stand alone can hold almost as many fans as we squeezed into our entire Kingsmeadow stadium.
Which brings me to a question I am getting increasingly asked about. Attendances and why ‘Sold Out’ games don’t always look sold out.
Our opening home games were technically full houses but there were clearly unoccupied seats scattered around for all to see. Why was this?
The answer is quite simple. While our capacity is 9,200, some seats are always going to be empty.
For example, there are the corner strips that are blocked out for segmentation purposes to separate visiting supporters from our East Stand. These are kept empty for obvious required safety reasons so straight away that diminishes our capacity. Lots of other seats are included in that total capacity figure, too, such as the dugout, media seats and the third floor which isn’t in use yet.
Then we have seats on the hospitality level that have not been purchased by the time matchday comes around. Whilst we would like to have it all sold, there are 800 seats on that level and to fill all of those for a league one club of our size would be astonishing.
We want our lounges and executive boxes to be full at every game and that is absolutely the goal we are all working towards. But Rome wasn’t built in a day.
At Kingsmeadow we simply didn’t have this level of luxury to offer fans and we still have to spread the message far and wide so there is greater awareness of what we can now provide.
That’s an area we are prioritizing and many of you will have noticed that we have now partnered with a company called Seat Unique which specialises in selling hospitality seats. Hopefully this will have a positive impact on the number we sell.
Then we have the away end itself which, once again, is far bigger than the space we were able to offer visiting supporters at Kingston.
The Cherry Red Records end can theoretically hold 1,466 supporters but that’s something that’s almost entirely beyond our control.
Clearly some of the bigger clubs are going to bring more fans with them than others. Bolton, for example, just about filled the stand with their fans - but that’s not always going to be the case. In fact, they’re the exception rather than the norm. We also have restrictions placed on us depending on the category level of the match so, in reality, we are unlikely to have more than 1200 maximum in there. In fact we are currently restricted to 1000 until we have completed some alterations proposed by the Safety Advisory Group.
One of the biggest reasons for seeing empty spaces is simply non attendance. Typically, season-ticket-holder attendance is around 70 per cent, which equates to over 1000 fans not turning up. And even matchday ticket buyers are never 100 per cent with travel issues, illness and other last-minute commitments reducing the figure to nearer 90 per cent.
Fans can, and do, email to let us know if they can’t attend and we also rely on the goodwill of our season ticket holders to let us know if they won't be attending. When that happens, we can then release their seats for general sale, just like we did at Kingsmeadow. However, we are currently working with our ticketing provider to make this process even simpler so fans can log in and release seats if they are unable to attend. Hopefully, this will be available soon.
We also have many debenture-only holders. They have to buy a ticket on a match-by-match basis and have until five days before a game to tell us whether they will be attending or not.
If they’re not, then we can put these seats back on general sale as well. However, the reality is they don’t all sell out - mainly because many are single seats. Technically, the seat is sold to a debenture or season ticket holder but it could still be empty by the time the game kicks off.
I hope all this goes some way to explaining the mystery of sold out games that don’t actually look sold out. One thing is for sure, the incredible atmosphere you have already created is enough to fill any stadium - no matter how many seats stay empty!