European Football

Gates down – is European football losing its edge?

ATTENDANCES across Europe’s major football leagues dropped in the first half of the season according to a survey conducted by Game of the People in which 68% of the leagues examined were in negative territory.

England, France, Germany and Italy all saw drops of between 2.5% and 3.8% this season, with Spain the only one of the top five maintaining gates close to 2015-16 levels.

Interestingly, the very top clubs are not in decline. The top 10, as defined by Deloitte’s Football Money League, are mostly flat – surprisingly, Real Madrid are down by 3.3% and PSG, in the post-Zlatan environment, have fallen 3%. In the top 10, the biggest climber is Liverpool, whose crowds have increased by almost 19%.

Outside that elite group, of the next 10, only resurgent AC Milan and West Ham – thanks to their new home – have posted positive returns.

In the Premier League nine of the 20 clubs are playing in front of fewer people in 2016-17. It is a similar story in France (nine of 20), Germany (12 of 18) and Italy (12 of 20). Spain, which is just about on par, 11 of 20 clubs have fallen.

But the top five leagues are just the tip of the iceberg. Central and Eastern Europe attendances continue to suffer – Bulgaria is down some 30%, despite the re-emergence of CSKA Sofia, the best supported club. The league champions, Ludogorets, are playing front of 1,900 people per game while the reborn CSKA attract over 4,000.

Romania is also witnessing a loss of interest, with crowds down by more than 28%. The best supported club, Steaua, saw gates down by 35% to an average of less than 6,000 and attendances at Bucharest rivals Dinamo fell by 25%. The ongoing dispute over Steaua’s name, led by flamboyant owner Gil Becali, may also be impacting public appetite for the club.

Of the 26 leagues examined, 19 saw a drop in gates in the first half of 2016-17 and in 13, the goals-per-ratio dropped. Eleven of the 13 were among the 19 leagues fallers. There may be a correlation reaffirming that less attractive football influences turnstile behaviour.

There are some exceptions. Scotland is up by 39% and there’s a good reason for that – Glasgow Rangers, who have clawed their way back to the top division after a period in the wilderness.

  Current Leaders Margin of lead at top Reigning champions (current pos.) Goals per game (last season) Attendances (percentage change) CL reps left EL reps left
Austria Rheindorf Altach 2 Salzburg (2nd) 2.8 (2.65) 6,794 (+8.3%)
Belgium Club Brugge 2 Club Brugge 2.67 (2.81) 11,103 (-6.7%) 3
Bosnia Zrinjski Mostar 4 Zrinjski Mostar 2.37 (2.02) 1,769 (+12.2%)
Bulgaria Ludogorets Razgrad 4 Ludogorets Razgrad 2.51 (2.2) 1,459 (-30.8%) 1
Croatia Rijeka 6 Dinamo Zagreb (2nd) 2.4 (2.28) 2,747 (+11.9%)
Czech Rep Viktoria Plzen 1 Viktoria Plzen 2.65 (2.82) 4,642 (-8.6%) 1
Denmark FC Copenhagen 11 FC Copenhagen 2.71 (2.77) 5,618 (-22.5%) 1
England Chelsea 5 Leicester (15th) 2.85 (2.7) 35,253 (-3.3%) 3 2
France Nice 2 PSG (3rd) 2.69 (2.53) 20,378 (-2.5%) 2 2
Germany Bayern 3 Bayern 2.72 (2.83) 41,645 (-3.8%) 3 2
Greece Olympiacos 5 Olympiacos 2.28 (2.26) 4,345 (+9.2%) 2
Hungary Videoton 0 Ferencvaros (4th) 2.6 (2.44) 2,544 (-3.2%)
Italy Juventus 4 Juventus 2.81 (2.58) 21,475 (-3.1%) 2 2
Netherlands Feyenoord 5 PSV Eindhoven (3rd) 2.71 (2.98) 18,912 (-2.5%) 2
Poland Jagiellonia Bialystok 0 Legia Warsaw (3rd) 2.79 (2.63) 9,216 (+1.2%) 1
Portugal Benfica 4 Benfica 2.36 (2.72) 11,325 (+4.8%) 2
Romania Viitorul Constanta 2 Astra Giurgiu (7th) 2.39 (2.46) 2,391 (-28.5%) 1
Russia Spartak Moscow 5 CSKA Moscow (3rd) 2.05 (2.45) 11,033 (-0.5%) 3
Scotland Celtic 19 Celtic 2.71 (2.81) 13,417 (+39%)
Serbia Red Star Belgrade 6 Red Star Belgrade 2.37 (2.5) 2,091 (-18.2%)
Slovakia Zilina 12 Trencin (7th) 2.53 (2.65) 2,019 (-16.3%)
Slovenia Maribor 0 Olimpija (2nd) 2.55 (2.44) 1,316 (-16.1%)
Spain Real Madrid 3 Barcelona (2nd) 2.94 (2.74) 28,603 (-0.1%) 4 3
Switzerland Basel 12 Basel 3.42 (3.14) 10,032 (-6.7%)
Turkey Istanbul Besaksehir 1 Besiktas (2nd) 2.47 (2.7) 8,507 (-1%) 3
Ukraine Shakhtar Donetsk 13 Dynamo Kyiv (2nd) 2.56 (2.68) 4,295 (-14.2%) 1

Crowds may also be lack lustre because of sheer monotony. There’s an awful lot of familiar names at the top of the various leagues – in fact, 12 of the 26 champions from 2015-16 are leading the way in 2016-17. Is it a coincidence that as many as nine of 12 have declining audiences? European football has become very predictable in recent years, are we seeing the first signs of the bubble bursting?

 

Categories: European Football

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