SIZE OF CROWDS AT ALBERT PARK F1 GRAND PRIX

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CVS
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SIZE OF CROWDS AT ALBERT PARK F1 GRAND PRIX

Post by CVS »

I am sceptical about the Australian Grand Prix Corporation’s claims - reported on austadiums.com - about single-day attendances during the F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit. Austadiums repeats AGPC claims of Day 4 attendances which mostly exceed 100,000 – including 121,500 in 2004.

The AGPC has admitted that these figures are all estimates derived using a secret methodology. There have never been any turnstiles at the temporary gates, and the AGPC seems reluctant even to use their barcode readers to check all barcodes on tickets and tell us how many of the tickets issued (many for free) actually get used - also how often the multi-day tickets get used.

So how can we trust their estimates?

Save Albert Park has extracted from the AGPC, using FOI, capacities of temporary spectator facilities in recent years: -

2017: 7,421 corporate places + 25,912 grandstand seats = 33,333
2018: 8,219 corporate places + 25,750 grandstand seats = 33,969
2019: 7,781 corporate places + 26,838 grandstand seats = 34,619

SAP finds these figures utterly credible – if only because they are very close to our own counts and estimates. And they come from the AGPC - so we don’t need to ask people to rely upon our mere say-so. All of which helps us to nail down two key facts:
• that the F1 Grand Prix has lost a lot of its former public support; and
• that the AGPC’s estimates of daily attendances are grossly inflated.

The loss of support is reflected in a decline in the real value of ticket revenue - another official statistic we can trust, because it is about money, and is therefore independently audited and dangerous to tell fibs about. Ticket revenue was $38.697 million in 2019 and $40 million in 1996 – which, thanks to inflation, equates to $69 in 2019 dollars. So ticket revenue has fallen by 44% in real terms. And that fall, we say, reflects two trends – a decline in the number of tickets sold and a decline in the proportion of higher-priced tickets sold.

The higher-priced decline is apparent from a simple comparison of the above numbers with the equivalent numbers - widely published at the time - in 1996:-

1996: 25,000 corporate places + 45,000 grandstand seats = 70,000

And those 1996 capacities were presumably the basis of the original official estimate of the spectator capacity of the Albert Park Circuit – which was 80,000. One used to find it on many websites, and it still appears on Wikipedia. The estimators presumably looked at the 1996 track map – with temporary spectator facilities all around the track monopolizing all the better locations - and allowed for only 10,000 general admission attendees - squeezed into the gaps. So:

70,000 corporate and grandstands + 10,000 general admissions = 80,000.

However, the capacity of the built facilities shrank almost annually, then collapsed during the Global Financial Crisis – and has since recovered only marginally. Almost all built spectator facilities are now on the Pit Straight side, with only two small grandstands and two small corporate facilities on the opposite side.

Given this vanishing act, the general admission spectator capacity of the circuit must have risen. However, given that general admission patrons have only mounds and concrete benches to increase the number of them that can get a view from a metre of trackside frontage, the general admission increase is presumably less than the corporate and grandstand decrease. Given a capacity of 80,000 before the vanishing act, one might suggest 70,000 after it – that is, 35,000 corporate and grandstands + 35,000 general admissions - the 35,000 corporate and grandstands being based on the official figures above, and the 35,000 general admissions being estimated as I shall now explain.

Wikipedia says the Albert Park Circuit is 5.303 km long. So the amount of trackside frontage is 10,606 metres – of which – as at 2019 and 2020 – about 30% is either filled up with corporate facilities and grandstands and other built stuff or off-limits to all spectators. So the amount left for general admissions is about 7,500 metres. So 35,000 general admissions would require an average trackside density during the race of about 4.5/ metre – or 3.5/metre if 10,000 or so of them watched on big screens off-track or were still wandering around.

Well, 3.5/metre + 10,000 off-track is believable. There are about 500 metres of trackside space (mainly Brocky’s Hill and the big mound overlooking Turn 7) where a density of 10+/ metre is seen during the race (so that is, say, 7000) and another 1000 metres or so with lower mounds and/or concrete benches with perhaps 4/metre (so 4000) – and the remaining 6,000 metres might perhaps average 2+/metre (say 14,000). Plus people not trackside (10,000).

So that is 7000 + 4000 + 14000 + 10000 = 35,000 - which agrees quite well with in-ground estimates of general admissions which I did between 2010 and 2013.

Yet the AGPC claimed, on Day 4 in 1996, an attendance of 154,000! Which would require 70,000 corporate and grandstands + 84,000 general admissions – packed into what was then only about 3,000 metres of left-over frontage - at an average density of 23/metre if one assumes 14,000 off-track.

And hardly less absurd is the 121,500 claimed on Day 4 in 2004 and currently listed by austadiums.com among record Australian sports crowds. It implies something like (as at 2004) 15,000 corporates + 30,000 grandstands - plus 76,500 general admissions packed into about 4000 metres – the then amount of leftover space. Perhaps at a density of 16/metre with 11,500 off track!

That bears thinking about. Imagine if the general admission people were provided with grandstands – filling up all the gaps between the corporate facilities and the grandstands that are really there. There would be viewing facilities pretty well continuously all around the track, and the general admission stands would have at least as many rows of viewers as the highest existing grandstands. The extra stands would have been twenty three rows high in 1996 and sixteen high in 2004. And over 10,000 more people would be watching on big screens off-track.

That is what we should be imagining when the AGPC tells us there are 100,000+ at Albert Park - something that really does look pretty awesome – something like the full MCG. And if we believe the AGPC we should imagine half of that even on boring Day 1 – when what we see, instead, is a thin scatter all around – even in the grandstands – and most of the corporate facilities closed or nigh-empty – perhaps averaging one or two per metre of trackside + off-track space.

If you put these arguments to the AGPC they will no doubt point out that their estimates also include credentialled staff and volunteers, of whom there are nowadays about 14,000 – down from about 20,000 in 1996. But the AGPC have admitted that most of these people become spectators during the race itself. So it is as broad as it’s long. They become de facto general admissions, competing for the same limited and measureable amount of useable trackside space.

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Re: SIZE OF CROWDS AT ALBERT PARK F1 GRAND PRIX

Post by austadiums »

Some valid points raised there. Just want to point out that Austadiums may not necessarily agree with some attendances, but what we post on our site at https://www.austadiums.com/sport is the official attendance as released by the respective event host, league/competition, club.

We've got the crowds for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne listed for every year since 2003 (when our database started) through to now, with the exception of 2017. If anyone has these, please let us know. View Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit crowds here: https://www.austadiums.com/stadiums/sta ... php?id=176

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cam
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Re: SIZE OF CROWDS AT ALBERT PARK F1 GRAND PRIX

Post by cam »

Interesting take on it all and certainly some valid points mentioned there. I've always wondered why the AGPC announce crowds as 'estimated attendances' in news reports etc. Surely it's not hard to scan tickets as fans enter and the system automatically gives an attendance figure! Albert Park is a big place and I think the figures announced are near enough however they would include absolutely everyone, from workers who come in and out during the day etc etc.

I wouldn't just restrict the calculations (in the estimated attendances in the original post) to one metre next to the fence (in addition to the mounds). Many people are happy to stand well back even from the fence, even with little view of the track - as can be seen from aerial shots and evidence when attending the event as I have.

I wonder if the Melbourne Grand Prix attendances have been compared to Adelaide Grand Prix attendances by the Save Albert Park Group. Crowd figures back then were reported higher than they are in Melbourne now. I was at the Victoria Derby at Flemington the day there was over 120,000 there, was huge - it would be interesting to compare an aerial photo of the track from that day to an aerial photo of Albert Park on race day!

Anyway, my personal opinion is the Grand Prix has been great for the state of Victoria. I'm a big fan of the Government spending money to get world-class events and put Melbourne on the world stage. And as a result, Albert Park itself has been transformed from a run-down park as it was pre-1996 into a beautiful park with great facilities for the community to use for the majority of the year.

CVS
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Re: SIZE OF CROWDS AT ALBERT PARK F1 GRAND PRIX

Post by CVS »

Thanks for the responses.

I would just like to point out that my estimates do not confine attention to people trackside. I allow (and it is an absolute guestimate) for 10,000 people who are not trackside - and that is during the race itself.

Having been mad enough a few years ago to walk the entire area of the park over several years using a tecnique I developed for counting/estimating the crowd, I am well aware that during much of the event there is probably more action away from the track than on it, and that many have discovered that the big screens give them a much better idea of what is going on than sitting on a mound or in a stand.

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