The new football season is about to commence and clubs across Europe will, as ever, aim to fill their stadiums by entertaining fans and providing the best possible customer experience.
In this article, the KPMG Football Benchmark team focuses on stadium performance in the big five leagues in 2016/17, with an eye on the possible trends for the 2017/18 campaign.
Capitalising on the highest average stadium capacity in Europe (close to 47,000), the German Bundesliga confirmed once again its leadership in terms of attendances.
In addition, despite hosting the clubs attracting Europe’s 1st (Borussia Dortmund) and 4th (FC Bayern München) largest crowds, impressive attendance figures are, unlike in other leagues, not strictly concentrated among the country’s leading clubs. Indeed, as many as eight clubs, more than any other domestic competition, reported attendances above 41,000 spectators - the league’s average. Among those, thanks to their remarkable campaign, RB Leipzig registered the highest attendance among the promoted clubs in the big five leagues (c. 41,000).
While 2016/17 attendances represented a decrease in comparison to the previous season, the trend could be markedly different in 2017/18 as newly promoted clubs, Vfb Stuttgart (capacity ca. 60,000) and Hannover 96 (capacity ca. 49,000), should outperform the relegated duo of SV Darmstadt 98 and FC Ingolstadt 04.
The English Premier League retained second place with an average attendance in excess of 36,000, as the negative impact of the absence of Newcastle United FC’s or Aston Villa FC’s large crowds was compensated by West Ham United FC’s relocation to the 60,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.
This move allowed the East London club to register the largest increase in average attendance (63%) across the top European leagues and helped to consolidate the position of London, hosting six football clubs with a 235,808 aggregate average, as the city attracting the most fans through the turnstiles in Europe, almost twice as many as other football strongholds such as Manchester or Madrid.
Next season Premier League attendance figures will profit from the return of Newcastle United FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC’s temporary move to Wembley while the new White Hart Lane is constructed. However, in order to get even closer to the Bundesliga’s leading position, the English league may need to wait for the completion of other ambitious stadium projects such as those planned for Chelsea FC and Everton FC.
With an average of around 28,000 spectators and a significantly higher level of underutilised capacity than the Premier League, LaLiga is still the third European league by average attendance.
While the two giants, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF are, inevitably, at the forefront of European attendances, LaLiga also hosts SD Eibar and CD Leganés, both of which managed to avoid relegation despite having the lowest and fifth lowest attendances, respectively, across the big five leagues.
In the 2016/17 season, the disappointing performances of Valencia CF and Real Betis resulted in low attendances at two of Spain’s largest venues, both with an utilisation rate of approximately 60%. It is interesting, however, to note how the city of Sevilla enjoyed the 7th highest combined average attendance across big five leagues, outperforming cities in Italy such as Rome or Turin, both of which have prominent derby matches that attract huge crowds.
This season, LaLiga will see Atlético de Madrid open their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium, which has a capacity some 24% higher than the Vicente Calderón and could therefore drive attendances in a positive direction, compensating for the fact the aggregate capacity of the three relegated clubs is 41% higher than the three promoted clubs.
Despite the second largest stadium capacity in Europe (c. 41,000), Serie A, with an average attendance at the end of 2016/17 in the region of 22,000, has arguably the largest room for improvement across the leagues under review.
Moreover, in this regard, the league lacks some uniformity, as only 30% of Serie A clubs generated more than the average attendance for the league.
It is interesting that FC Internazionale and AC Milan, despite recent below-par results on the pitch, topped the ranking with averages of around 47,000 and 40,000 respectively. However, it should also be highlighted that these two clubs play in one of the biggest arenas in Europe, San Siro, with a capacity of 80,000 spectators, indicating a high level of underutilisation.
At the other end of the table, newly-promoted FC Crotone averaged 8,000 spectators (second lowest among the big five leagues) but avoided a quick return to Serie B.
Looking ahead to 2017/18 and with new stadium plans of AS Rome and AFC Fiorentina still far from completion, it is reasonable to assume the impact of promoted and relegated clubs will not greatly affect the overall attendance figure for Serie A, as the average capacity of the clubs in question does not differ to a large degree.
Following renovation and expansion of some stadiums for EURO 2016, France’s Ligue 1 has not been able to capitalise on higher capacity venues by attracting more fans through the turnstiles, indeed the average remained stable at 21,000, the lowest among the big five leagues.
Among the four clubs playing in new venues, only OGC Nice, in achieving qualification for the UEFA Champions League’s play-offs, recorded an increase in average attendance. As a result, Paris Saint-Germain FC were still the best performers in this regard (more than 45,000), followed by rivals Olympique de Marseille.
At the same time, the most interesting story is found at AS Monaco FC. Although Les Monegasques were crowned French champions, they recorded the smallest average crowd in the league.
In future seasons, French clubs’ ability to exploit their new venues will define whether Ligue 1 can surpass Italy’s Serie A and even come close to LaLiga in terms of stadium attendance.
Figures for the 2016/17 season suggest that, across the big five leagues, there is currently a degree of stability in football audiences; but, with the building of new football grounds, most offering enhanced accommodation, the longer-term may see some increases in the more successful markets – assuming that current demand trends continue.
Further investigation into this and related topics, as well as analysis of industry data, can be undertaken for you by KPMG Sports Advisory Practice. Our subject matter experts can also assist stakeholders in assessing and interpreting the potential impact on their organizations of any particular piece of research, identifying the underlying reasons behind specific trends or developing possible solutions and considering future scenarios.