Nick Harris: Mystery as 100,000 fans go missing at Silverstone

Mystery as 100,000 fans go missing at Silverstone


21:46 GMT, 21 April 2012



21:46 GMT, 21 April 2012

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone
on July 8 should be one of the jewels of the sporting summer as Lewis
Hamilton and Jenson Button attempt to thrill a massive home crowd.

But mystery remains over quite how
massive the crowd will actually be – or rather how big the paying crowd
will be.

Inside Sport has learned of secret internal accounting
information at Silverstone that appears to show the number of paying
customers at major events at the spiritual home of British motor racing
is much lower than the headline figures suggest.

Full house: But how many in the crowd actually pay to watch Silverstone's big events

Full house: But how many in the crowd
actually pay to watch Silverstone's big events

A Silverstone press release in July last
year said 315,000 people attended the 2011 Grand Prix over three days,
while an earlier one in June said 157,000 had attended the 2011 Moto GP
motorbike event, also over three days.

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A Silverstone spokesman said those figures 'are accurate and are a very close representation of actual tickets sold'.

Yet an accounting source insists
that documents show that the number of tickets 'sold' for the MotoGP was
fewer than 60,000, and even this number included several thousand
complimentary tickets.

The official attendance figure for the MotoGP was almost 100,000 more.

There is also understood to be a discrepancy between the 315,000 Grand Prix figure for 2011 and the number of tickets sold.

Asked to explain possible discrepancies, Silverstone's managing director, Richard Phillips, said: 'Our published crowd figures are based on the numbers of heads on site at an event rather than our ticket sales.'

He added that the headline numbers will include 'hospitality guests, team members, championship personnel, sponsor guests, staff and contractors'.

That explanation would suggest almost 100,000 people attending the MotoGP last year did not buy tickets.

Phillips says ticket sales for the British Grand Prix are 10 per cent up on last year.

Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club, meanwhile, are still waiting to secure an investment partner to inject 500m into the circuit's development, after a Qatari bidding group walked away.

Confident: Sprinter Yohan Blake

Confident: Sprinter Yohan Blake

A Bolt from the blue

Usain Bolt is going to get the shock of his life when he is beaten in both his main events, the 100m and the 200m, at the London Olympics by his young Jamaican stablemate, Yohan Blake.

That is the view of the medal-winning former British sprinter Jamie Baulch, who follows both men closely.

He told me last week: 'Usain is terrified. You can see the fear in his body language and his eyes, and as someone who's been there, done that, I can tell you Blake's surge in performance will affect Bolt. It already has.

'The young guy is oozing confidence and Bolt is nervous. And tight isn't good.

'Blake to beat Bolt twice in London. You heard it here first.'

Confused messages on doping

With sprinter Dwain Chambers increasingly likely to be allowed to run for Britain at this summer's Olympics, despite serving a two-year ban for a doping offence, the messages being given to sportsmen by Britain's anti-doping agency, UKAD, remain as contradictory as ever.

At a seminar for aspiring Olympians this week, I watched young sports wannabes being told they would get automatic bans if testing positive for marijuana and that they must abide by the '100 per cent Me' ethos of full responsibility for every substance in their body.

Mixed message: Chambers likely to run in London

Mixed message: Chambers likely to run in London

The person who dished out these messages was an employee of UKAD and wearing a '100 per cent Me' T-shirt.

Could this be the same UKAD who have let footballers who tested positive for marijuana escape with warnings and who last year gave amnesties to three rugby league players who admitted to the doping agency that they had taken banned substances

A gold medal to UKAD for confusing messages.

Plastic Brits It's all Greek to some

Those critics who insist on lambasting 'Plastic Brits' – Team GB athletes who were born outside Britain – conveniently overlook the numerous British-born sportsmen plying their trades, for very good reasons, for other countries.

One of them, Spyros Gianniotis, is the reigning 10km open water swimming world champion.

He competes for Greece but the 32-year-old is a Scouser by birth, having been born in Liverpool to his Liverpudlian mum, Brenda.

She grew up in the city's Anfield district and moved to Corfu with her Greek husband when Spyros was young.

The 2012 Games gold medal contender will still do his bit for Britain's Games; he will be the first torch bearer when it leaves Greece for these shores next month.