2013/14 was for the Premier League a record breaking year when it came to attendances. Based on the unofficial figures from the website European Football Statistics the average attendance figure of 36 670 (up from 35 921) represents the highest since the Premier League began and puts the division on a par with the kind of peak attendances seen in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Much of the increase though can be put down to changes in the composition of the league – The loss of the two clubs with the lowest attendances for 2012/13, Wigan and QPR (19 359 and 17 779 respectively), to relegation at the end of the previous season undoubtedly helped the overall average as did the promotion in their place of Cardiff City who posted an average attendance of 27 430 for their debut Premier League Season. Like-for-like attendances however, remained virtually static with an increase of just 0.01%. This means that the Premier League has also failed to make any inroads on Germany’s Bundesliga which enjoyed a similarly small like-for-like increase of 0.56% to remain, on average, Europe’s best attended league with an average attendance figure of 43 499. The issue for the Premier League is very much one of ground capacity however, Tottenham’s new 56 000 capacity ground remains on the drawing board whilst West Ham’s move to the 54 000 seater Olympic Stadium is still some two years away.
Elsewhere among the big 5 in Spain the top three clubs, Barca, Real and Atletico all saw modest rises in their average attendances from the previous season, however outside this top group nine out of the remaining fourteen clubs saw their average attendance fall. As a whole the league experienced a decline of 1282 in the average attendance figure to 26 955, with a like-for-like fall of 672, or 2.29%. In Italy Serie A experienced a small rise in average attendances, up 76 to 23 310 however for anyone wanting to infer that this may be a rallying point after a decade long decline in attendances would be disappointed to hear that like-for-like attendances actually declined by 0.83%
The best news among the elite group came in France where the wisdom of the saying “build it and the will come” was put to the test. Moving into their new ground OGC Nice saw their average attendance balloon from 10 271 to 22 913 contributing to an overall increase of 9.07% and like-for-like increase of 11.15% for Ligue 1. As Lyon and Bordeaux are among those awaiting new stadia constructed for Euro 2016, Ligue 1 is likely to enjoy similar boosts next season, potentially putting it within reach of Serie A.
Outside of the big 5, Greek football attendances continued to demonstrate the disastrous effect economic crisis has on stadium crowds declining from 4976 in 2012/13 to 3876 for 2013/14, significantly lower than the 2008/09 average of 7622. In Russia average attendances have fallen to 11 620, their lowest level for 10 years however, with a stadia building programme planned ahead of the 2018 World Cup Russian clubs could well benefit from the new stadium effect.
Below the top leagues the most significant piece of news was the re-emergence of the German 2nd tier as the best attended 2nd tier league. It had previously wrested away the English Championship’s crown in 2007/08, following a period of high-growth, but held this for only one season as its average declined. Returning to growth once again it has overtaken the Championship which has, like the English Premier League, seen attendances remain more, or less static.