Wednesday, 12 Jun 2024

Record Attendances in Football

Standing Kop

Football is a sport that thrives on the presence of passionate spectators. Without them, it’s just a group of individuals kicking a ball around. In the past, football matches would attract record-breaking attendances, with over 60,000 people showing up to witness the action. However, times have changed, and various factors have influenced attendance numbers. In this article, we’ll explore how the way we watch and experience football has evolved over the years and what this means for the future.

Premier League Stadium Record Attendances

Record Attendances in Other Leagues

Championship

League One

League Two

Scotland

Rest of the World

Historical Football Attendances

Grimsby vs Wolves - 1939 at Old Trafford

When people reminisce about football, they often refer to the “good old days”. Back then, footballers were seen as “real men” who played with intensity and physicality. The same nostalgia extends to attendance figures, with iconic stadiums boasting impressive crowds. Here are some examples:

  • Anfield: 61,905
  • Bramall Lane: 68,287
  • Celtic Park: 83,500
  • Elland Road: 57,892
  • Goodison Park: 78,299
  • Hampden Park: 95,722
  • Ibrox Stadium: 118,567
  • Maine Road: 84,569
  • Old Trafford: 76,962
  • St James’ Park: 68,386

But has this always been the case? A closer look at Premier League clubs in the 2015-2016 season reveals a different story. Some clubs achieved their highest average attendance record in recent years. This challenges the notion that attendances have declined across the board. It’s clear that the dynamics of attendance numbers are more complex than they seem.

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What Factors Affect Football Attendances?

Television

Watching Football on Television

Critics often blame the growth of television coverage for the decline in live attendance. Yet, the relationship between televised matches and stadium attendance is more nuanced than it may appear. The first-ever televised football match took place in 1937, and even back then, matches were only shown partially. Television coverage of football has increased significantly, especially since the advent of the Premier League. However, it was the growing interest in live football during the 1980s and 1990s that led to the creation of the Premier League.

Some research conducted in Scotland during the 2013-2014 season challenges the popular opinion that televised matches negatively impact attendance. The data suggests that attendances were higher on average for televised matches compared to the season’s overall average. While this is not conclusive evidence, it raises interesting questions about the role of television in attendance numbers.

Ticket Prices

Football Ticket Prices

If clubs want more people attending matches, they must examine their ticket pricing practices. The Taylor Report following the Hillsborough Disaster stressed that the cost of stadium renovations should not burden supporters. However, clubs have steadily increased ticket prices over the years. A comparison between the cheapest season ticket prices in 1981 and 2014 reveals a staggering increase. This economic reality, combined with the limited disposable income of many fans, affects attendance rates.

Various campaigns have called for action from the Premier League to address ticket prices. In response, the league implemented a cap on away ticket prices. While this is commendable, supporters still encounter additional costs such as travel and accommodation. The 2016 incident involving Liverpool Football Club’s ticket pricing scheme resulted in a backlash from fans. Eventually, the club reevaluated their pricing and apologized. To attract more fans, clubs must recognize the financial constraints faced by supporters and find ways to make attending matches more affordable.

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Stadium Capacity

Football Stadium Capacity

The conversion to all-seater venues in England has significantly affected stadium capacities. The introduction of seating has reduced the number of fans that can be accommodated, compared to the days of standing terraces. However, there are exceptions. Clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal, playing in stadiums with larger capacities, have recorded their highest average attendances in recent years. The Emirates Stadium can hold 60,432 spectators, while the newly developed Anfield can now welcome 54,074 fans.

Top 25 Biggest Attendance Records (Worldwide)

The Future of Stadium Attendances

Expanding Capacity at Football Stadiums

Predicting the future of attendance rates is challenging. However, clubs such as Chelsea, Tottenham, and Manchester City have plans to expand or redesign their stadiums, potentially increasing capacity. There has also been talk of reintroducing standing sections, with Celtic successfully trialing safe-standing during the 2016-2017 season. This could potentially remove the limitations imposed by seating arrangements.

It is clear that top clubs, benefiting from lucrative TV deals, are less likely to struggle with attendance numbers. They have the resources to attract new followers and develop their stadiums to accommodate them. Regardless, all clubs should take steps to address the declining trend in attendance. This includes considering fans’ financial circumstances and finding ways to make attending matches more accessible.

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