Premier League fun for all - at a cost
You've probably heard the old joke about 98% of all statistics being made up - but have you heard the one about Premier League crowds becoming more diverse and inclusive?
No, seriously, it's all there in new research conducted for the league by polling company Populus.
According to the study, women and people from ethnic backgrounds are going to top-flight matches in increasing numbers. Nearly one in five adult fans at Premier League games is female and 8% of the adult total are from an ethnic minority group.
The number of under-16s attending games on a regular basis is also on the up, with 13% of all season tickets sold across the league being junior tickets.
Premier League staff are understandably pleased with these numbers but it is the "direction of travel" that really delights them.
According to the research, women and "black or minority ethnic" adults now account for nearly half of new fans in the last five years.
The survey shows more women are becoming interested in football - photo: Press Association
"This is hugely encouraging because it confirms the hard work we and the clubs have put into improving the quality of experience on and off the pitch," said Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.
"Football is increasingly attractive to more sectors of society, which is fantastic because it was only a generation ago that people used to look down their noses and see it as a rather narrow preserve for young, white males."
Scudamore is right: people did think that about football fans. But that's not necessarily what they think now.
Today's Premier League fan is still typically white and male but he's not so young. Middle-aged and middle-class is the new stereotype and it's one that has left English football's bosses in something of a quandary.
On the one hand, they are sensitive to the "prawn sandwich brigade" tag, but on the other, they could be forgiven for thinking 'what's so bad about being middle-class?'
After all, aren't we all a bit middle-class these days? And if the alternative is a return to the hooligan-scarred '80s, well, could you pass the sandwiches, please?
But working-class, middle-class, it's all a bit A-level sociology, isn't it? Those labels mean less than they used to. What matters more now is money, and it is on this measure the Premier League is vulnerable.
Released alongside the Populus research this week was the announcement of a joint initiative between the Premier League and VisitEngland. The tourism agency has come up with a football-specific version of its "Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme" - basically a kitemark for tourist attractions.
All 20 clubs have signed up, which means they will be assessed on eight criteria: pre-arrival, arrival, pre-match experience, match experience, catering, toilets, post-match and club shop. Under those main headings are the nuts and bolts: answering the phone, clean toilets, enough parking and stewards who treat you like cherished customers.
All well and good and exactly the kind of thing Fifa's World Cup 2018 inspection team would have been delighted to hear during their visit this week.
There is, however, one important question VisitEngland will not be asking: "Nice ground/decent game but how much?!?"
Steven Powell, the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) director of policy, spotted the elephant in the room immediately.
"We're disappointed the Premier League has chosen not to consult and involve supporters in the VisitEngland scheme," said Powell.
"Once again fans have been ignored. Why? We also note there is no value for money element in the criteria. No surprise there.
"To give one example, Chelsea charge visiting supporters a minimum of £46 up to £54 for seats behind the goal, some with very poor views. That would buy you the best seat in the house in Germany."
Chelsea are by no means alone when it comes to being reassuringly expensive. Take Arsenal's visit to Blackburn this Saturday. Seats in the away section cost £35 for adults, £25 for over-65s and £15 for under-16s, all with booking fees.
Shifting the 4,800-seat allocation at these prices has not been easy. In fact, the Gunners have taken the unprecedented step of emailing the 160,000 supporters on their database to remind them these tickets are still available.
It almost goes without saying that the reason Arsenal have 1,800 more seats than the minimum allocation is Blackburn cannot sell those seats to their own fans.
The issue of attendances has become something of a specialised subject for me as I spent a week earlier this month trying to persuade clubs to tell me how season ticket sales were going. The old favourite "You only sing when you're winning" is perhaps the best way to describe how I got on.
But what I did get is a firm impression that it's tough out there, particularly for the clubs without realistic chances of silverware (most of them, then) - and that is why so many are offering what look like attractive deals for those willing to commit to a season ticket, especially if you do it early and online.
That said total attendances, after years of steady growth, have fallen for the last two seasons, as have season-ticket sales. That last nugget of information was in the footnotes of the recent research, they were down 4% year-on-year.
So you could argue those deals are not quite attractive enough, which brings us back to the issue of just how "inclusive" top-flight football really is.
The FSF was not the only supporters' group to notice the absence of "value for money" criteria in the VisitEngland scheme but it was the only one willing to go on the record.
When I asked another 'fans' representative' what he thought of the Premier League's research, he joked that it was a "desperate attempt to realign a dirty product with the forces of good", before more seriously pointing out the absence of any breakdown by income group.
As Powell put it: "The results of the survey that have been put into the public domain don't square with our weekly experience as fans. We'll be asking the Premier League to release the full details of the study and methodology employed."
And that's the problem with statistics, as Mark Twain once said, they are pliable, facts are stubborn.
But it would be churlish of me to ignore the progress that has been made in getting more women and ethic minorities through the turnstiles, especially the latter.
A 2002 study on crowd demographics at Premier League games found that only 2% of fans were not white. To bring that figure to something very close to the statistics for the general population is impressive and encouraging.
It also sends a positive message to Fifa about this country's suitability as a host for the World Cup. Male, female, black, white, middle-class, working-class, all are welcome - just don't forget your wallet.