Soccer Attendance

championship, england

Those of you interested in seeing Tim Ream's first game for Bolton Wanderers might have noticed something else. The sparse attendance at Millwall for a Fifth Round FA Cup game, amplified by the empty sections usually associated with the bad old days of Major League Soccer clubs playing in oversized venues. It's not just a Millwall issue or even a Championship issue. The empty sections show up in the Premier League too, it's just not the story anyone wants to tell.

Instead, there's the appearance that demand for tickets remains steadily high across the Premier League and for all but the troubled clubs in the Championship. It's the ideal of English soccer, even when it's no longer an accurate read on events.

England's Championship averaged 17,388 last season. Major League Soccer drew 17,872. Now, we can question the definitions of announced attendance versus actual, but these are the publicly reported numbers. We're going to take them as reported. We're also going to resist the urge to play up comparative market size since we're talking about England. If you want to portray your leagues as the home of the game and where soccer matters above all else, it's not fair to point to the potential market for a single-entity league well down the North American pro sports depth chart. It's also not fair to point to a handful of over-achieving teams. MLS has those too, and it shouldn't be lost on anybody that the Seattle Sounders draw Premier League attendance numbers.

What does this mean in practical terms? Well, for one thing MLS's reported goal of being one of the world's elite leagues by the next decade isn't completely removed from reality. From an attendance and performance perspective, the temptation is normally to look at a handful of clubs that might be over-achieving relative to the median. Sold out stadiums, squads full of elite players, and international brands. That's not the situation for most clubs in any of the world's leagues that have already attained elite status.

Should attendance continue to rise, MLS has a list of benchmarks higher up the global attendance table. If MLS attains the National Football League ideal of playing at or near capacity for games that count, even the smaller soccer-specific stadiums in many MLS markets would allow for an average attendance that's in the top five in the world.

Corner Rating: (with 1 being a slide backwards in attendance and 11 MLS taking their place among the top attended soccer leagues in the world) 7

Last Week's Corner: We got a lot of responses pointing to Landon Donovan as the key difference at Everton and the club drifting without him. Maybe, but it's worth remembering, as one of our commenters pointed out, that Donovan himself said he thought they were a better team than their record. Flattery from Donovan was unnecessary at that point, and without him Everton advanced in the FA Cup. With enough of the teams in front and behind Everton and Fulham not doing enough to establish themselves as better than their own records, the corner rating stays at 10.

One Response to Soccer Attendance

  1. Feder says:

    If you looked at this from an English perspective, the first thing would be the market size. I don’t think it’s as easy to dismiss as you do. Take Nottingham, a small city by any standard that has Forest and Notts County right on top of each other. 50,00 seats to fill for lower division football in an area of 600,000. Meanwhile, Seattle wants to be soccer city USA because they get 30,000 in an area of 3.5 million with no NBA or NHL. Seattle alone would be the second biggest metro area in England: link to en.wikipedia.org