Premier League continues stadium expansion to chase Bundesliga attendance levels

11 August 2017 5 min. read
More news on

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.