The search for Europe’s most balanced league

Continuing on from my last post about the level of equality among the so-called big five i’ve decided to expand the analysis to take a wider look at European leagues. Similarly to before I’ve taken each teams average attendance, worked out the average for the league and have also calculated the standard deviation (a measure of how spread out the data is). This allows me to calculate the coefficient of variation, which is the standard deviation as a percentage of the mean, thus allowing me to compare leagues with both high and low average attendances. Essentially a low score means attendances are bunched together (a sign of an equal league)  where a high score indicates attendances are much more spread out (a sign of an unequal league).

So far I’ve just done this with attendances, though the same methodology could be used for other figures, such as wins, or goals scored. I’ve used attendance data from my favourite European Football Statistics website, covering the season ending in 2013. One notable absence is the Republic of Ireland as the site did not have any attendance data for the 2012/13 season. In total I have included 33 countries top-flight divisions which gives a fairly comprehensive spread.

The first table is as follows:

Coefficient of Var whole Eur

So in terms of the most unequal we have Portugal with a coefficient of variation of 126.23. At the other end of the scale, the most equal, Iceland, has a coefficient of 31.97. Perhaps surprisingly, the English Premier League just creeps in to the top-five most balanced leagues with a figure of 40.54. It is maybe less surprising to see Scotland as the second most unequal with a coefficient of 119.71

The reasons for the differences are complex and varied; Geography, history, politics and economics are all sure to play a part.  Trying to look for some pattern to this though I’ve made a matrix:


Interestingly it shows that with the exception of Spain leagues with a high overall average attendance tend to be more equal, whereas leagues with low attendances are split between those, such as Iceland, with a high level of balance, and those such as Portugal, Scotland and Greece which have a higher level of inequality. My theory is that this is because as the overall average rises it is harder for clubs at the top of the scale to pull further away from the rest of the field as the costs of stadia construction (and operation) rise exponentially past a certain point at the higher end of the scale and as market saturation becomes closer creating a concertina effect whereby clubs at the lower level may then begin to close the gap.


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