European 2nd Tier Leagues: The last decade

European Attendances


It’s a hard life being a second tier league. Forever overshadowed and constantly overlooked. It’s time they were put under the spotlight and what’s more the state of a second tier can reveal a lot about the health of football in a nation. It’s with this in mind that using data from European Football Statistics I decided to produce this graph showing attendance trends over a decade and it actually shows quite a lot about the state of football in Europe. Here are four things I’ve picked out:

1.) The impact of recession.

The second tiers in France, Italy and Germany all experienced declines in average attendance between 2008/09 and 2009/10 (data for Spain for 2008/09 was unavailable) which coincides with the Eurozone being in recession in 2008/09. Germany appeared to be particularly affected with a decline in average attendance from a peak 18140 in 2007/08 to 15 009 in 2009/10. By Contrast the English Championship appeared much more resilient. All leagues, apart from Spain however, experienced modest increases in the final season.

2.) A challenge to the Championship

The Championship has long boasted of being Europe’s pre-eminent second-tier with crowds are higher than most top-tiers, in fact it currently revels in being the fourth most watched league in Europe. This position is however, under-threat, but not from any other top-tier it’s biggest threat comes from the 2. Bundesliga, a league which has experienced phenomenal growth with attendance doubling in just six years. With the Championship experiencing low levels of growth the 2.Bundesliga snatched it’s crown briefly in 2007/08, before recession bit. Growth has however, returned to the 2.Bundesliga and is once again within touching distance of the Championship and with, typically, lower ticket prices than the Championship it is only a matter of time before it snatches the title of Europes top second-tier once again – perhaps for good this time.

3.) The fall of a giant

Just over twenty years ago Italy had hosted a world cup, could boast some of the worlds top stadia and was the destination of choice for the worlds top-talent lured by the big money on offer.  The rise of the English Premier League as well as various scandals and hooligan problems have though seen Italian football enter a long decline. Serie B reflects this with a steady decline throughout the period.

4.) The underperformance of Spain

Given the stature of Spanish football the average attendance for the Segunda division is pitifily low. In 2011/12 for instance the Primera Division had an average  28 796  whilst the second tier had an average attendance of just 7031. One possibility is that this is due to the uneven distribution of wealth in the Spanish leagues with a concentration in the hands of clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona. Whilst in England the weaker clubs dropping into the Championship have still been enriched by their time in the Premier League the same cannot be said of the clubs relegated from the Spanish top-flight




  1. Just a quick note to say Italy, despite the loss of perennially well-followed Hellas Verona, are showing a 14% rise this season to go with the rise of last. Enough to suggest something is going on there, I think.

    • Hi Marco,

      Thanks for your update. I think that’s quite interesting as, like you say, it hints that there may well be a recovery going on. I’ll have to keep a close eye on the figures.

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