Q & A: When away fans were spurred on .. and Max was at the top

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Q. Has any football club ever had such a huge travelling support that they have attracted the largest crowds on every opponent's ground through an entire season? I suspect Manchester United will be deprived of this record this year thanks to Blackburn knocking down their main stand just before United's visit.

A. No club has ever given every opponent their best home attendance of the season and Manchester United will be no exception. The Blackburn game aside, last weekend's game at White Hart Lane attracted 31,343: a figure already bested by visitors such as Swindon Town (31,394), Liverpool (again 31,394) and Aston Villa in the Coca-Cola Cup (31,408).

The closest yet to establishing this record were the Tottenham Hotspur team led by Steve Perryman in their 1977-78 season in the old Second Division. Twenty of their twenty-one away league games drew the home club's largest crowd; the exception was the midweek game versus Blackburn Rovers when a combination of torrential rain, train trouble, sheer distance and the failure of Rovers' own fans to recognise a class act when it was in town, resulted in a meagre 9,540 showing up. - Ade Macrow, London N17

Q. What percentage of favourites win their races in horse-racing - both flat and National Hunt?

A. As with all matters concerning horse races, it isn't that simple. It depends on the following: 1) Are all the horses in the race the same age or not? 2) Is it a handicap? 3) The course. 4) The distance. 5) The going. 6) The time of year.

As you can imagine, the permutations of the above are myriad, and each will yield a different figure. Statistically, therefore, for any given race the favourite will have anything from a 5 per cent chance to a 95 per cent chance of winning.

If, however, you average out all of the averages for all the possible permutations, then a figure of around 33 per cent will not be a million miles away - for either Flat or National Hunt. - Peter Ratcliffe, Manchester MZ9

Q. Can anyone explain the need for a referee at the British Ice Skating Championships?

A. Certainly to television viewers there may not appear to be much for a referee to do, but in fact there are several reasons:

1. Someone has to blow the whistle so that all the judges show their marks simultaneously - otherwise some judges could hang back waiting to see what others had awarded.

2. To ensure that all the judges mark to approximately the same standard, the referee notes the mark for the first performer in each event, quickly averages them, and then tells the panel what the average mark is, and the highest and lowest; judges may then if they wish adjust their mark before the electronic scoreboard informs the spectators. This helps to reduce the absurdity of one judge giving, say, a 5.6 for a performance that someone else considers worth only 4.2.

3. If a skater stops in mid-performance and demands a re-skate, the referee has to decide (within rules) whether or not this is justified. In 1973 the world championship referee Ben Wright of the US had to decide what to do when Irina Podnina and her pairs partner, the Olympic champions, carried on skating when their music stopped.

4. At the end of a championship, the referee has to report to the governing body on the performance of each judge - whether fair or biased, whether knowledgeable or ignorant, and so on. This can lead to the suspension of faulty judges.

5. The referee may also have to take instant decisions on unexpected circumstances - deteriorating quality of the ice, failure of the lights or the scoreboard, hostile reactions from the crowd, and so on. And if a skater omits a required move, or does an illegal one, the referee is the person to point this out. - Dennis L Bird (Archivist / Historian, National Skating Association), Shoreham-by-Sea

Q. In the draw for the third round of the FA Cup, the teams seemed to be arranged alphabetically - ie Arsenal were No 1, Aston Villa No 2 and so on. Yet for the fourth-round draw, this system was abandoned in favour of apparently random numbering - No 1 was Swindon or Ipswich, Aston Villa had become No 22, and Kidderminster were No 23. Why was the change made?

A. All of the Premier League teams plus the First Division teams that had not been promoted last season are numbered alphabetically - that is, Arsenal No 1, Aston Villa No 2, Barnsley No 3, etc. (Since the reduction of the present Third Division to 22 recently, it is necessary to include two or three other teams in the earlier rounds of the competition proper in order to get to the prerequisite 64 for the third round.) Thereafter, teams are numbered according to draw order. So the first and second clubs to emerge from the 'hat' become tie No 1, the ninth and tenth to materialise are tie No 5 and the last pairing is No 32.

The winners take these numbers into the next round. Then if, for example, No 32 comes up against No 5 in the 13th match to come out in the fourth-round draw, the winner of this game carries No 13 forward into the fifth round, and so on. - Mark Le Cornu, St Lawrence, Jersey

Q. Would you be good enough to inform me of the achievements of Max Woosman in the earlier part of this century. As I remember it, he was excellent in more than one sport.

A. Max Woosnam was a remarkable all-round sportsman. The son of the Canon of Chester, Woosnam went to Winchester and then gained Cambridge Blues at football, golf, tennis and real tennis.

As a centre-half, he captained Manchester City in the First Division and also captained England against Wales in 1922, although he always remained an amateur. He was also Player of the Year in Gamages Football Annual - the premier award of that time (1922).

He played first-class cricket for Cambridge and was a Wimbledon champion, winning the men's doubles with R Lycett in 1921. Woosnam won an Olympic gold medal for tennis in Antwerp in 1920, and captained Britain in the Davis Cup.

After retiring from football in 1922 because of a broken leg, Woosnam was persuaded to play one more game for Manchester City. This was the match against Sheffield United in August 1923, that opened the Maine Road ground.

In retirement, Woosnam was a leading member of the International Lawn Tennis Federation until his death in 1965 at the age of 72. - Ian Davies, Bedford


Q. In the heat and excitement of the action, how do rugby league players manage to keep count of the fifth tackle rule? Does the referee signal it in any way? - Robert McPher

son, London NW10

Q. Which British footballer who was transferred abroad has made the best (and worst) progress in the language of the country he has moved to? And which foreign imports have learnt English best? Any rivals for Jan Molby? - Anon, Cardiff

Q. Does any reader have information about a football team called Clayton Arabs, who played in Manchester some time earlier in the century? - K Brown, London W10

Q. Why is the Tour de France sometimes extended to England and some mainland European countries? What was the original route? - Kevin Maguire, Batley

Q. The Stoke v Barnsley League match from earlier this season saw nine players score in Stoke's 5-4 win. Is this the highest number of players to score in a game in which nobody scored more than once? - Graham Wright, Colchester

Q. Has the psychological influence of the colours of clubs' playing strips ever been empirically researched? Does 'aggressive' red (Liverpool, AC Milan, the Wigan rugby league team) usually engender success? Has a colour-change ever dramatically altered a club's fortunes? - Duncan Bull, Plymouth.

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:

Q & A

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(Photographs omitted)