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Football attendances in Europe – which clubs fill their grounds the most?

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This is part two of a series on football attendances and football grounds in Europe.  To read part one on the biggest stadia in Europe please click here.

By Walter Broeckx

In part 2 of our article on football grounds in Europe I will be trying to see how football grounds in Europe fill up for league games. And by doing the research for this I must say that I have found some things that surprised me a bit.

I have taken the numbers of the last 4 seasons that I could find and left out the current season. And then I did make a nice spreadsheet of this but then I realized that it would be too big to show in one piece. And this is a bit of a shame in fact. So I will have to do it in two parts!

So in this first article I will try to see which team gets the highest number of people inside their stadium. I will be leaving out how many seats remain empty as otherwise it would become a bit unclear.

I have put the teams in order of the biggest total average attendance for the 4 seasons I took. So it could well be that in one season a team had a higher average than the team in first place but one has to draw a line somewhere. And as I am drawing the lines it is my line.

But enough talking for now, here are the numbers of the teams with the highest attendances in the last 4 seasons in European football:

Club capacity Rank capacity Avg 06/07 Avg 07/08 Avg 08/09 Avg 09/10 Total avg
Man Utd 75957 2 75826 75691 75304 74864 75421
B. Dortmund 81264 4 72799 72510 73097 77248 73914
Real Madrid 80354 3 71526 76234 71947 74921 73657

Barcelona

99354 1

74078

67560

71328 78097 72766
Bayern M. 69901 5 68647 69000 68647 69000 68824
Schalke 04 61482 6 61348 61274 61361 61327 61328
Arsenal 60355 7 60045 60070 60040 59927 60021
Celtic 60832 9 57928 56677 57066 45582 54313
Hamburg SV 57274 11 55867 55368 54744 50045 54006
Inter 80065 8 48284 51211 60019 56195 53927
Marseille 60031 12 51604 52601 52376 52376 52239
AC Milan 80065 10 47117 56642 55185 42809 50438
Newcastle 52387 18 50686 51321 48750 50252
Rangers 52063 15 49955 49143 49533 47564 49049
Ajax 52960 17 48610 49125 49014 48734 48871
Hertha BSC 74228 14 48704 45438 49695 46681 47630
Frankfurt 52300 20 47625 48324 47012 47206 47542
Stuttgart 55896 13 45765 50447 51340 41065 47154
FC Köln 50374 16 41900 43741 49312 48059 45753
Monchengladbach 54067 19 47488 40427 47376 46410 45425

And the first thing that surprised me was that I didn’t see Barcelona taking first place but it was Manchester United who has attracted most people. So whatever we may think of them and how much we dislike them we can only accept the fact that Manchester United has the biggest crowd in Europe.

But an even bigger surprise is the fact that in second place we can find Borussia Dortmund. They just beat Real Madrid by a few hundred people to take this spot in the list.

And then we can only find Barcelona in 4th place. But as you can see Barcelona did have the highest average attendance ever in this survey in the last season with 78079 people as their average number.

I must say that this top 4 was the opposite of what I was expecting. I was thinking of Barcelona first and Real Madrid second. But they are only 3rd and 4th.

And behind Barcelona we find Bayern Munich in 5th place. Followed by another German team Schalke 04 who could change their name in Schalke 06 in this article.

And then in 7th place we have Arsenal. We are the last team who have an average attendance of + 60.000. So not that bad and in fact the gap between us and let us say Barcelona is not as big when it comes to selling tickets.

And after us there is a big gap of some 6.000 people less on average for the next team.

Now if you take a look at the rest of the top 20 yourself you will see that in this top 20 there are 9 teams from Germany. So the Bundesliga really is selling tickets like mad.

There are 3 teams from England in this list as Newcastle is the number 3 in England when you look at sold tickets.

There are 2 Spanish sides in this table as they are the only real title contenders for the last century and the next one as long as the banks keep them above water.

But there are also just 2 Italian clubs in this list. Both clubs from Milan in fact. Even the Italians don’t like their boring football any more?

Something worth mentioning is the fact that even though the Scottish league is a very two sided affair those two sides do have their place in this top 20 of selling tickets. And to make the list complete we also have one French team (Marseilles) and one Dutch team (Ajax Amsterdam).

But the fact that almost half of this table has been taken by German clubs is rather amazing. Now I do admit I don’t follow the Bundesliga that well enough to give a reason for this. I have heard that the prices are rather lower compared to the EPL and this will play a part. But I don’t know if the high entertainment of the games has anything to do with it?

Do German teams play an attacking style of football most of the times? I know most top teams are rather attacking minded but I’m not that good in judging it because I rarely see a game.

So if there is anyone out there who knows a bit more and who can explain this high number of Bundesliga clubs in this list you can have your say in the comments section.

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31 comments to Football attendances in Europe – which clubs fill their grounds the most?

  • I find this really interesting Walter. It confirms something I’ve seen for a while – that by and large anyone can get tickets to go to a Barca game, except for one game a season against Real Madrid.

    But I also think there are some new trends – for example Celtic suffered a real crowd drop last year, and that seems to be maintained this year. Rangers too can’t fill what (in terms of these big clubs) is a modest sized stadium. That might suggest they are in decline – and given the fact that Rangers have severe financial issues (by their managers own admission) that can’t be a good thing.

    That of course is just a casual observation, and it will be great to see this season’s figures to see if it is true.

    (And apologies for the problems with the layout of the chart – as everyone knows by now, design and layout is not my strength).

  • Wurfy

    Reading the Swiss Ramble website, a couple of things that stand out about the German clubs is the way they are truly rooted in their local communities and that their ticket prices are so low. To quite some degree, you could argue that this explains Newcastle’s high score (and those of the Scottish clubs relative to their population densities).

    We all know that Arsenal has the highest income from matchday revenues in Europe, which is deeply impressive, annoying and worrying at the same time.

  • Rvp1011

    What we should really see here is the percentage. which club fills the most percentage of their stadium…

    If a clubs capacity is only 40000 and they fill 39999.. we can’t really say they aren’t popular because there is nothing else they can do if the stadium is full- 99.99% full.

    also we may have to check the waiting list as well..

    stadium’s attedance on the day doesn’t mean that is the number of ticket been sold either..

  • Mo

    Hi Tony I was thinking is a stadium expansion possible, with are big waiting list it would be great.

  • Dark Prince

    Really helpful statistics. Kudos Walter!! 🙂

    I just have one question…why didn’t Arsenal make a stadium capacity of around 75000-80000? I mean, we have a very long waiting list which means, we can attract more crowds which inturn will lead to more match day revenue. So why did we keep it at only 60000??

  • Hi Walter –

    if you add % to the chart even more interesting

    Man U 99.3%
    B Dortmond 90.9%
    R Madrid 91.7%
    Barcelona 73.2%
    Bayern Munich 98.5%
    Schalke 04 99.7%
    Arsenal 99.4%

  • gooner80

    isnt it a case of demand and supply and the price elasticity. e.g if barca decrease their prices they would probably fill out their stadium and if they increase their price there would be more empty seats so maybe it’s a case of bad pricing on some of the clubs behalf. Or it could be that the seats that dont sell regularly are really bad seats I remember seating in the east stand at highbury and there was a post and couldnt see anything in one particular half, and the only way I would sit there again is if there was no other seats available and it was a big game and had no choice. It is quite hard to build a stadium with everyone having a good view

  • Wrenny

    Thanks Walter, another great article.

    Dark Prince,
    It’s believed the transport links around the stadium couldn’t support more than 60k coming to matches. Until those are improved (with investment from Arsenal) the council won’t allow us to increase capacity.

  • Shard

    I actually find the German league very exciting to watch. teams almost always seem to go hammer and tongs for the win. suprisingly enough the standard of defending is not very good and you often have scores like 4-3 or 5-2 etc.

    Another thing which makes the German league fun is it’s unpredictabilty. A team can finish 12th one season, win the title the next, and finish mid table again the following year. Bayern Munich will almost always be near the top but there are just so many different teams competing for the title. I don’t know the reasons for this however.

    The German league is a fast paced, tough tackling league (with better enforcement of rules) and as such isn’t too different from the English league. The defending and unpredictabilty are probably the biggest differences.

    Apparently it’s the only league in Europe that makes a profit (at least only major league in Europe). Prices are low, and I believe all German clubs are allowed a certain percentage of their stadium to be stands, which are replaced with bolt-on (not bolton 🙂 )seats when they play in Europe. So maybe your figures are a little distorted by that Walter.

  • walter

    Paul, you are ruining the plot. 😉

  • Shard

    @ dark prince

    I remember having read somewhere that Arsenal took planning permission for a 60k seater with the option to expand to 80k in the future.
    Probably an 80k seater straight off was seen as an unacceptable risk then. The Arsenal board do plan conservatively and perhaps they wanted to test the waters first. Also as other people have since made me aware that the transport system needed to be upgraded further and maybe it just came down to economics. I still think we will expand sometime in the future.

  • Wrenny

    Sorry for going off-topic, but I thought Martin Keown was excellent in the pre-match build for the Ipswich game. When asked a lot of guff about goalkeepers and defenders he gave a lot of praise to Koscielny, spoke about Shay Given not having the stature and command of his area necessary to be an Arsenal ‘keeper, and how buying any goalkeeper could get in the way of Szczesny’s huge talent coming through.

    It was shocking to see some genuine thought and analysis being applied, not just the usual regurgitated nonsense about spending money (which is the only solution 99% of pundits can come up with to a problem, no wonder they didn’t become managers!)

  • walter

    Shard, I didn’t take in acount the fact that in Germany some clubs still have non seating areas in their stadiums. As I was thinking: a supporter who enters the stadium is one supporter. If he is going to sit or goint to stand up he counts for one.

    About prices I have looked for the prices of Borussia Dortmund who are currently leading the table. The highest ticket price for a game is 65 euro (£54) and then you will be sitting next to the Dortmund president. Other prices go from 47,50 euro (£ 40) and the cheapest seats are 27 euro (£22)
    A standing place goes from 14,5 euro (£11) to 10 euro (£8)

  • Shard

    @walter

    Yes i suppose that’s a fair enough calculation- to count every supporter entering the stadium. At least as regards the scope of this article. Maybe you’ll take into account the stands and the pricing in the 2nd part of the article??

    Also, didn’t Dortmund’s stadium used to be called Westfalonstadion?

  • Shard – concerning the expansion of the Emirates, the story that they could go further and expand has been around for some time, and certainly with a 10 year waiting list for season tickets we might expect this.

    But there are huge health and safety issues around the ground, and I have no idea if the bridges across the railway track could handle more people after a match.

    Then there’s the public transport issue. I suspect the local authority would demand that Holloway Road station (which is largely shut on match days) would need an absolute upgrade costing millions upon millions, so that it could open on match days. That might be a deciding factor too.

  • Shard

    @ Tony

    Well, I’ve only been to the Emirates twice so I concede that you’ll know the issues and problems that any expansion would entail much better. I just think that it’s logical that we will expand at some point in the future. probably once our entire debt is cleared

  • Shard

    As I see it the biggest problem to any expansion is usually planning permission. Is it true that that has already been secured, provided those upgrades are made?

  • Eric

    nice stats! looking forward to the next one 🙂

    also a question for anyone who can answer me, im looking to give tickets to my brother to go watch arsenal, whats the best way of looking and finding tickets?

    thanks in advance!

  • Re tickets. Arsenal sell almost all their tickets to members, although a small number do go on general sale. To look for general sale, keep an eye on the ticket section on http://www.arsenal.com

    But by far the best thing to do is to become a Red Member. Membership costs about £25 a year, and it gives you the right to buy tickets, and you get a nice membership pack each year.

    Tony

  • Sammy The Snake

    Without wanting to ruin the plot here, Walter, does this mean Arsenal have the most efficient use of their resources (stadium)? Sorry, but my brain will kick me around till I find out. You’ve tickled my brain now and it can’t stop!

  • Sharpshooter

    I think it was well known for any serious football fan that Bundesliga has the highest attendances. About Borussia Dortmund I might add that the fans make an incredible atmosphere there, but unfortunately this is something that our boys can only dream about… Anyway, it’s nice to see the actual attendance figures so clearly compared. Keep up the good work, Walter!

  • Richardr

    A lot of the German grounds, including Dortmund’s, were renovated and expanded for the 2006 World Cup, and this gives the huge capacities they have.

    Incidentally, I think the removal of the standing areas removes about 14,000 from the capacity for UEFA / FIFA games

  • Sammy – your question is answered in the third part of the series – which is now on the site at http://blog.emiratesstadium.info/archives/10191

  • Two things that, unless I missed something, neither Walter nor any of the commenters mentioned. First, aside from the Old Firm, Scotland doesn’t have any big stadiums. Hampden Park, of course, doesn’t have a club team (only the Scotland national team), and the next-largest stadium is Aberdeen’s Pittodrie, which seats 22,000. There are some high schools in the U.S. with larger stadiums.

    Secondly, FourFourTwo magazine did a feature last year called “Why the Bundesliga Rocks.” They mentioned standing sections (apparently they’ve never had a Hillsborough-style disaster) and beer openly sold in the stands (apparently their hooligan problem is minimal, or maybe they’re too drunk to fight). They also mentioned cheerleaders (some fabulous frauleins) and players happy to pose for rather undignified pictures — although one they showed, Ruud van Nistelrooy, is undignified no matter what he poses for).

  • Notov erthehill

    Regarding Hampden Park, Queens Park an amateur club, plays at Lesser Hampden.
    Celtic and Rangers have circa 40K fans. The next Hiberian, Hearts, Dundee United and Aberdeen are lucky to have 15k or likely 10k fans. The rest of the Scottish Premier League are lucky to have 5k fans average in a season. David Murray, in particular with the active assistance of Walter Smith in 1990s, outbid and outpaid all the other Scottish clubs. Hence the current demise of Scottish football.
    Celtic and Rangers are the only clubs who can afford 10k salaries per week, the other clubs are restricted to £2000 maximum for the best paid players.
    A one club monopoly in the 1990s resulted in all the other clubs, bar Celtic under Fergus McCann, went into deep, deep debt!

  • OC Gooner

    The attendence at Bundesliga games could also be related to population and their ecomony. I’m just an unwashed American here, but my understanding is that Germany has the largest population and is the richest country in western Eurpoe. Surely that has something to do with attendence numbers.

  • Narendra

    Hello everyone.
    As to why AFC did not build an 80000 seater, I came across an interview by Mr.Hill-Wood, if I am not wrong, in which he said
    something about AFC wanting supporters to be able to ‘feel’ the atmosphere inside the stadium and ‘not be miles away from the action’. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but those two things stand out in my memory.

  • Zan

    If Arsenal has a stadium of Man United’s size, we would probably hit 70k at least.

  • Finsbury

    A quick search on google found the following on the potential for stadium expansion.
    It makes sense to me. Both the pitch can be lowered, and there is room for another tier on top. The only problem as discussed by Untold and Untold’s readers is the transport infrastructure.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/A32276054

    posted Feb 12, 2008
    comment by Sleek Gooner (U11046071)

    “I work with one of the architects who helped design and build the new Arsenal stadium and even lived onsite while it was being built, so if anyone knows the facts he does and so will you now!

    (I have bombarded him with questions and the following is what I have been told)

    The stadium can be expanded and will, it is only a matter of time. This was a pre-required specification of the design to allow it to be future-proof. It was originally designed to be an 80,000 seater stadium with a retractable roof, but because of Islington council objection and time to build as well as cost, it is now at 60,000 capacity. Let us be honest, it is a good jump in size from 38,000 as Highbury was.

    The area around the pitch can be utilised for seating if needed and would provide up to 5,000 more seats. For new stadium regulations, this area is required to be free of seating however. This is a good thing as stadiums that will be selected for the 2018 World Cup (Oops!) have to adhere to this rule, eg Wembly as another stadium.

    Regarding expanding the stadium, there are a few simple ways this can be done. Emirates Stadium is a four-tiered design, simply adding an extra tier, just like the overlapping tier between the first and second tier will add the capacity required or simply to keep adding steps to the original stadium as it is, ie increase the steps from the back row.

    There are approximately 1,000 seats in the last row of the stadium. If you take an extra 10 steps upwards, then that would be 10,000 seats. Another factor to look at is the height of the stadium. Rules in building it were it had to be of a maximum height, which it is below now anyway as the stadium was built below ground level.

    Getting back to the maximum capacity, it would take 40 steps to add 40,000 seats. This is a conservative estimate, and bring the total capacity to over 100,000 if necessary. There are 45,000 or so on the waiting list at the moment…
    Regarding the height, if each step up is about 12 inches, this means it would be forty feet more than it is now. This does not seem excessive.

    The roof will need to be removed and a new roof replacing it, but as you can see it is not a nightmare architectually speaking.

    I can go on and on, with statistics and figures etc.

    The bottom line is that once the underground, overground and road infrastructure is improved in future Arsenal has to live up to their original promises (Finsbury has no idea about this, other then the obvious cost implications) then we can see it happening.”

    The prospects of the Wembley move was worth a discussion at the time. But looking at the twin sites of Ashburton Grove & Highbury, the path chosen by the FA over the last decade, the hilarious spectacle of a billion pound specialist football stadium that didn’t even have a pitch specified, I’m happy with the result.

  • Finsbury

    It is important to emphasise how low the stadium sits on the site. The drainage works to prepare the site were immense.
    Half the job of the construction process, more or less.

  • Bundesliga is the most attended league because of several factors.

    1. The clubs make an effort to market themselves locally. This is critical. Having a scattered support base that more often than not can not make it to the stadium does not help you at all.

    2. The pricing for a ticket is within reach for most supporters.

    3. Most of the clubs try their utmost to sell off the majority of the tickets before the season starts.

    4. The league is highly unpredictable, thanks to the control from the German FA. Obscene money has not been poured into some teams to the exclusion of others buying success in the process.

    There is a lot more about football marketing at http://www.footballmarketing.biz for information’s sake. But as an avid Arsenal fan I know that what is there is already known to the Arsenal marketing machine that is as good as they come.