Premier League continues stadium expansion to chase Bundesliga attendance levels

11 August 2017

With the 2017/18 football season kicking off in earnest, as the English Premier League commences this weekend, clubs across Europe continue to aim to fill their stadiums by entertaining fans and providing the best possible customer experience.

In anticipation of the new season, research from Big Four consultancy KPMG has explored stadium performance in the big five leagues in 2016/17, with an eye on the possible trends for the coming campaign. The analysis found that English football's top clubs are still averaging lower attendances than many of their German counterparts, however, they are running a continued campaign of stadiums expansions as a means for the Premier League to catch up.

In terms of average attendances among the biggest five leagues in Europe, the English Premier League retained second place with an average attendance in excess of 36,000, bolstered by the move of West Ham United to the former Olympic stadium. This move allowed the East London club to register the largest increase in average attendance (63%) across the top European leagues and helped to consolidate the position of London, hosting six football clubs with a 235,808 aggregate average, as the city attracting the most fans through the turnstiles in Europe – averaging twice as many fans as other European football strongholds Manchester and Madrid.

However, the Hammers move from the old Boleyn Ground to the 60,000-capacity Olympic Stadium was counterbalanced by the absence of relegated mainstays Newcastle United and Aston Villa large, whose large crowds spent the year watching Championship football. While Newcastle are set to return as Champions of the English second tier as the 2017/18 season kicks off, along with Tottenham Hotspur’s temporary move to Wembley while the new White Hart Lane is constructed, boosting capacities in the league further, Villa remain stranded away from Premier League football, and are joined by Newcastle’s North-Eastern rivals Sunderland. Despite yet another disappointing campaign having resulted in their relegation, having scraped survival over the course of numerous successive seasons, the Black Cats averaged similar crowd sizes to Ligue 1 giants Paris St Germain – who recently completed the £200 million purchase of Brazilian superstar Neymar Junior.

Attendance statistics big five leagues

English Premier League clubs will continue to plan expansion over the coming seasons, as the league collectively fights to surpass the attendance levels of the German Bundesliga. Both Chelsea and Everton have plans for raising their stadium’s capacities, which the clubs hope will bring a major boost in sustainable income in the long term. However, the long-term viability of this may still be in doubt, with KPMG having previously recently published a study into the price of football, suggesting Premier League clubs offer the “worst value for fans in Europe.”

As clubs also pass their huge costs onto their supporters, the research placed five Premier League clubs, including Arsenal – who faced a toilet-roll protest from visiting Bayern Munich fans earlier in 2017 at their entry prices – Chelsea, Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool – in a “red zone”, for expensive tickets. A number of these teams are aiming to increase capacity in the future, however if this does not lead to lower ticket prices, then fans may simply be priced out of attendance as stagnating wages lead to drops in leisure spending in the UK.

Measured against the value of their enterprises the Premier League's key competitors, European giants Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, were all positioned in the “green zone” however. While for now the clubs in the red zone seem capable of counting on fan revenue to also part fund their spending then, growing unrest amongst fans priced out of attendance could jeopardise what remains an essential part of their revenue.

The Bundesliga meanwhile retains its leading position, with the yellow wall of Borussia Dortmund fans averaging the highest attendances in European football, at around 80,000 a game. Unlike other leagues, impressive attendance figures are not an exclusive feature of the country’s leading clubs stands. Eight clubs, more than any other domestic competition, reported attendances above 41,000 spectators – the league’s average. Among those, thanks to a remarkable campaign that saw the team finish second, qualifying for Champions League football, recently promoted RB Leipzig registered the highest attendance among the new arrivals in the big five leagues (capacity 41,000).

While 2016/17 attendances represented a decrease in comparison to the previous season, the trend could be markedly different in 2017/18 as newly promoted clubs, Vfb Stuttgart (capacity 60,000) and Hannover 96 (capacity 49,000), should outperform the relegated duo of SV Darmstadt 98 and FC Ingolstadt 04. Both leagues meanwhile continue to outperform attendance figures from La Liga, where despite the dominance of two Spanish giants FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, who remain at the forefront of European attendances, beyond the top teams, La Liga also hosts SD Eibar and CD Leganés. These two Spanish clubs have the lowest and fifth lowest attendances respectively across Europe’s five biggest leagues, despite successfully avoiding relegation in dramatic fashion last season.

Related: The most valuable football teams in Europe, English clubs rule.


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Champions League glory hard to buy for football’s economic elite

15 March 2019

The thrills and spills of knock-out football can still be one of the sport’s great levelling forces, with the Champions League’s second round having shown that the biggest spenders aren’t always able to buy their way to glory. While a league format broadly favours the squad depth of the beautiful game’s richest teams, half of the tournament’s wealthier teams exited in the first one-on-one elimination round.

As the Champions League burst back into life in February, following an agonising winter break, only two of the 16 teams re-launching their Champions League last-16 bid were from outside the so-called Big Five football leagues. With the exceptions of Portuguese champions FC Porto and Dutch footballing powerhouse AFC Ajax, teams from the world’s biggest spending leagues monopolised the second round. As outlined by analysis from KPMG’s Football Benchmark, the Premier League was represented by four teams, with three clubs come from La Liga and the Bundesliga respectively, while Serie A and Ligue 1 both retained two clubs.

This followed a grimly predictable group phase, which had seen the two most expensive squads progress in all but one of the eight collections of four teams. The one team to buck that trend, Ajax, had last won Europe’s premier club competition in 1995, but those halcyon days have long since faded into memory, and Ajax had failed to progress beyond the group stage in 13 years. With the second youngest squad in the tournament, what now seems to be an awakening football giant had some shocks in store for the second round too.

Group Stage values

Despite an impressive Europa League run which saw the team reach the final two years ago, Ajax had not progressed in a Champions League knockout stage tie since the 1996-97 campaign. That all changed this time, as Erik ten Hag’s men overturned a first leg deficit to trounce Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate. Having felt hard done by in a 2-1 defeat at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, the Amsterdam club cruised to a 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu, a result which saw the tournament’s fourth most expensive squad crash out to the third cheapest remaining team.

The supremely expensive team, which had won three Champions Leagues on the trot, had crashed out in spectacular style. For many footballing purists, the end of the seemingly invincible Galacticos would have been enough to restore some of their faith in the sport – but there would soon be more schadenfreude to revel in, as a succession of Europe’s most bank-breakingly costly teams would soon join Los Blancos in their exit.

The pick of the bunch was unquestionably Paris Saint-Germain, who forfeited a 2-0 first leg advantage to somehow crash out of the Champions League. The team, who are fast becoming known as the foremost bottlers in Europe, faced a grim dissection in the French press following a 3-1 defeat by Manchester United at Le Parc de Princes. While it would be over-egging it to paint United as ‘giant killers’, the Red Devils squad is worth markedly less than the club bankrolled by Qatari oil money. PSG hold two of the most expensive players of all time in French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and Brazilian playboy Neymar.

Second Round values

Elsewhere, the round’s cheapest squad proved further that money is not everything, as Porto overcame Roma (the Italian club has since parted ways with manager Eusebio Di Francesco in the wake of this humbling) – while Juventus battled back to beat Atlético Madrid. The most ‘balanced’ tie of the round, there was a squad value difference of only €22 million between the two squads, in favour of the Spanish giant. With that being said, €113 million of Juve’s price-tag came from the summer acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s tie-settling hat-trick went to show that money spent in the right place ultimately makes the difference.

Spending wisely

At the same time, there were also four teams which lived up to their large price-tags. Manchester City pummelled Schalke over the course of two legs, hammering the German team 7-0 in the second game. With the largest squad market value in the tournament, the Citizens showed that their spending had not merely been a frenzy provoked by having large amounts of money to throw about – a la PSG – and that every penny had in fact been used to craft one of the continent’s most well-balanced and dangerous teams, to ultimately contend for the title.

Tottenham Hotspur similarly brushed off Borussia Dortmund, while Liverpool eventually overcame Bayern Munich, to leave no German teams in the tournament. Meanwhile, Barcelona similarly did for the French contingent of the Champions League, bundling out Olympique Lyonnais 5-1.

Operating Revenues

Going forward, the humbled economic superpowers of European football will take solace from the fact that their huge operating revenues will allow them to buy up talent which has emerged in this year’s Champions League. With Real Madrid having re-installed Zinidine Zidane as Head Coach, the club has already committed itself to spending big in the summer, cashing in some €50 million of its €743 billion revenue stream from last year to sign Éder Militão from Porto – who has impressed in this year's Champions League – in the summer.

Whether the PSG project is financially sustainable in the long-term remains to be seen, meanwhile, but with a huge portion of commercial revenues including shirt-sales from the club’s array of superstars, it will likely also seek to bring in more big names in the summer. The club was reportedly in the running to sign Ajax star Frenkie de Jong, before Barcelona finally secured his services from the end of the season.

The likes of Ajax will meanwhile face an uncomfortable wait, as a range of its new crop of outstanding players inevitably attract the attentions of Europe’s top spenders. With the lowest operating revenues of any team left in Europe, the club will face an uphill struggle to hang on to the likes of teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt. However, it would not be the first time that the club has been plundered for its top talent, and what Ajax and clubs of its size can take forward is that with the right eye for lower-key recruitment, they can rebuild, and still challenge Europe’s elite.