According to research undertaken by KPMG’s Sport practice, in the 2014/15 season, the top two divisions in each of the ‘big five’ European territories attracted, in aggregate, over 77 million spectators. This equated to a year-on-year increase of just over 1% and was equivalent to an average attendance of 19,500 per game.
At an individual league level, the biggest year-on-year change in 2014/15 occurred in the Spanish second league, Liga Adelante, where average attendances increased by almost 2,300 per game, representing a 38% uplift. At La Liga level attendance levels decreased by almost 5% although stadium utilisation remained constant at 69% due to changes in the mix of clubs playing in the Spanish top division. Despite the fall in attendance levels in La Liga, attendances across the top two divisions in Spain increased by more than 4%.
The largest proportionate decrease at an individual league level in 2014/15 was recorded in the French second division, Ligue 2, where attendance levels decreased by over 22%. However, there was a 6% growth in French first division attendances – the highest growth rate amongst the top divisions in the ‘big five’ territories and one of only two top divisions amongst the ‘big five’ to record a year-on-year increase in attendance levels. Similarly to Spain, stadium utilisation remained the same as 2013/14, at 72%, due to a combination of a change in the mix of clubs as well as the expansion of Stade Vélodrome, the home of Olympique de Marseille.
The other top division amongst the ‘big five’ territories to record an increase was the Bundesliga. Although the increase was minimal (less than 1%) the German first division continues to record the highest average attendance level in Europe with, on average, 42,685 watching each match in 2014/15. This equates to an average stadium utilisation of over 90% which is the second highest across the ‘big five’ leagues. A small growth in average attendance levels in the Bundesliga was offset by a 1% drop in 2. Bundesliga, where average attendances decreased from c.17,900 to c.17,700.
The league with the highest stadium utilisation is the English Premier League. Even though average attendance levels fell by more than 1% in the 2014/15 season, the overall utilisation remained exactly the same at 96% due to a decrease in aggregate stadium capacity. The average attendance of the second division in England, the Championship, grew by over 7%, to reach over 17,800.
Whilst some growth was achieved in the Italian second division, Serie B, in 2014/15, when measured on an average attendance basis, the top two Italian divisions are now the lowest amongst their peer groups across the ‘big five’ European territories. With a decrease of almost 4% in 2014/15, Serie A average attendance is now below 22,200. Stadium utilisation of 53% is also the lowest of the top divisions of the ‘big five’ European territories. Whilst the average attendance growth of over 8% in Serie B in 2014/15 was a positive performance, the average attendance level of almost 5,800 was still the lowest average attendance amongst the second divisions of the countries analysed.
These initial observations prompt three immediate questions:
- Given the situation in Italy, what can clubs do to stimulate demand? Some Italian clubs with new stadium plans are proposing smaller capacities than their current venues in the hope that restricting supply has a positive impact.
- Can England close the gap on Germany in terms of average attendance levels? In the short term it would appear not based on the mix of clubs and the fact that, in effect, stadia are full. However, several English clubs have expansion plans which could see average attendance levels approach 40,000 if some of these plans come to fruition.
- The brief analysis set out above appears to demonstrate that if one division increases average attendance the other division within that country sees average attendance fall. To what extent is the change in the mix of clubs each season a contributing factor to this or are there other factors at play in each country?
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