Thanks for the idea for this post goes to JB who made the suggestion of comparing attendances in lower tier leagues across Europe with a view to explaining any differences – A great idea as it seems to have been a topic that isn’t ever really covered by anyone.
Once again I’ve taken the attendance statistics from the European Football Statistics website which is probably the best source of attendance statistics for the top European football leagues.
Looking at these figures it is the divisions which sit below the so called big-five of the Premiership, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A which occupy the top positions.
If we plot the figures for both 1st and 2nd tiers on the same chart we get the following:
This seems to indicate that attendances in each tier are fairly closely related – large attendances in the 1st tier will mean correspondingly large 2nd tier attendances, but how close is the relationship? Well, according to the correlation coefficient it’s a very close 0.93
In itself this isn’t much of a revelation, but what it does allow me to do is make a linear regression model (the R squared is 0.86) with which I can then use to compare the expected average attendance of the 2nd tier based upon the attendance for the 1st tier with the actual average attendance figure, the result being this:
Top of the table for exceeding expectations is the English Championship. Based on the Premier League’s average attendance, we could expect the second tier to have an average of around 12565, but what we actually get is 17729. On the other hand Spain occupies bottom place – its 2nd tier average attendance of 7031 some 3220 lower than what we would expect based on it’s 1st tier average of 28 796. Elsewhere Ligue 2 of France performs well, whilst the 2. Bundesliga is around where we would expect it to be and Italy, like Spain also disappoints.
So why the difference between England and Spain? One possible explanation is in the effect of distributing broadcasting income. In the Premier League this is done collectively, whilst in Spain and Portugal (another poor performer) it is carried out on a club-by-club basis. Under this system income is spread far more unequally than in the English and other leagues which use the collective system. As this Guardian article shows the disparities in Spain are huge with Real Madrid netting over 140m Euros whilst bottom earners Granada came away with 12m Euros. By comparison the English Champions Manchester City got £60 million from the Premier League broadcasting deal, but £40 million each went to Blackburn and Wolves who finished in relegation positions.
So clubs relegated to the 2nd tier have enjoyed the benefit of a period where they shared in this huge wealth. They can also expect to receive ‘parachute payments’ – designed to soften the financial blow of relegation (and necessitated by the sheer runaway success of the Premier League in generating broadcasting revenue) these are intended to help keep clubs from going under – and which are now set to rise to £60 million over a four year period. Further to this as the competitiveness of the Championship increased it means that even clubs with sizable support bases who are relegated from the top-flight find it harder to get back up which over time helps raise the divisions stature and its average attendance figure.