Whilst the European leagues take a short international match break, KPMG Sport Practice investigated how the top division in each of the ‘big five’ European leagues have been performing over the opening games of the new season in terms of matchday attendance levels.
The most recent data available shows that the top divisions in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have seen a combined attendance increase of 1.3% in the 2015/16 season compared to the same period last year. The average number of spectators at each match played in these leagues has reached almost 30,000 so far in the 2015/16 season, with a total of approximately 11.4 million fans having been through the turnstiles.
However, as the chart below illustrates, there are some considerable differences in terms of average attendance across the leagues analysed.
Bundesliga games are the most followed football games in Europe in terms of matchday crowds as on average 43,359 fans per match watched the first eight rounds of the 2015/16 season. This figure is mainly driven by the impressive performances of Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München who are currently first and fourth in Europe in terms of average match attendance (83,144 and 75,000 spectators per game, respectively). Overall, German clubs have experienced a 1.3% year-on-year growth in average attendance so far in 2015/16. This result follows the 2.1% year-on-year increase seen across the whole of the 2014/15 season.
Premier League clubs are also continuing their strong performance, surpassing the first eight rounds of last season’s games by 1.2% in terms of average attendance. Premier League matches have attracted 36,452 supporters per game so far in 2015/16. This result is even more interesting considering the fact that the combined seating capacity of the three newly promoted clubs (AFC Bournemouth, Norwich City FC and Watford FC) is lower than the combined capacity of the three relegated clubs from 2014/15 (Burnley FC, Hull City AFC and Queens Park Rangers FC).
The difference in crowds between the Premier League and the Bundesliga is still significant. However, Germany’s outperformance of the top English league could be narrowed in the future as several English clubs are currently working on a series of extensions and redevelopments of their venues with the aim of increasing seating capacity and, ultimately, attracting bigger crowds. For instance:
- Manchester City recently opened their new South Stand, adding an extra 6,000 seats to the Etihad Stadium, which now has an overall capacity of 55,000 seats;
- Liverpool is currently expanding Anfield’s Main Stand. Upon completion there will be 54,000 seats from the 2016/17 season. The club also has further plans to increase their capacity to 60,000 in the near future;
- West Ham United are due to move into the redeveloped 54,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in London for the start of the 2016/17 season; and
- The construction of Tottenham Hotspur’s new 61,000-capacity stadium in London is expected to begin soon.
In Southern Europe, La Liga appears to be recovering from a sharp crowd decrease of 5.1% recorded across the whole of the 2014/15 season. The first seven rounds of the current season have shown a 5% increase in average attendance, which now stands at 27,956 spectators per match. One of the reasons behind this annual fluctuation might be the performance of Real Betis Balompié. The club, which has the ability to attract crowds of over 40,000 fans for its home games, was relegated to the second division at the end of the 2013/14 season, but managed to achieve immediate promotion back to La Liga for the 2015/16 season.
As already well documented elsewhere, crowds in Serie A have been on a gradual downslope over recent seasons. Following a 3.9% year-on-year decrease registered across the whole of the 2014/15 season, the Italian top division has experienced a further 1.9% contraction after seven rounds of the current season. Despite the generally poor infrastructural status of Italian stadiums, the overall league attendance decrease might also be being influenced by the mix of clubs. The promotion of Frosinone Calcio and Carpi FC 1909 has seen these two relatively small clubs reach the top tier of Italian football for the first time in their history. Their average home attendances are among the lowest in the top divisions of the ‘big five’ leagues, mainly due to low seating capacities at their home venues.
After the first nine rounds, the French top division Ligue 1 has seen a 1.6% downturn in average attendances compared to the same stage of the previous season. It will be interesting to observe how the significant renovations, expansions and redevelopments that have taken place in preparation for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2016 tournament will affect French attendances over the whole of the 2015/16 season.
Whilst Paris Saint-Germain FC has achieved a 1.4% growth in average match attendance so far in 2015/16 (46,430 supporters per game), based on available data it appears that Olympique de Marseille’s average home attendances are over 10% lower, albeit influenced by the recent c.23,000 crowd against Angers SCO. Ligue 1’s overall crowds are also affected by the modest crowd figures achieved by GFC Ajaccio. In terms of average attendance per game, the club is ranked the lowest within the top divisions of the ‘big five’ European leagues (3,708 spectators).
The table below shows the home game attendances of all 98 clubs across the top ten divisions of the “big five’ European leagues in the 2015/16 season.
In addition, if you would like to discover more about 2014/15 attendances in the ‘big five’ leagues, you can read our previous article here.
Source: Individual league websites; KPMG analysis
Note: Data as at 13 October 2015
Note: Up until 13 October 2015 seven rounds of games had been played in Serie A and La Liga; eight rounds in the Premier League and the Bundesliga I; whereas teams in Ligue 1 had played nine rounds. One match (OGC Nice – FC Nantes) was postponed in Round 9 of Ligue 1.
 It should be noted that on-pitch team performances, the fixture list and relative importance of games, as well as the composition of the league and related venue capacity of each club are factors that can influence the overall match attendance and, to a certain extent, limit comparability of information.