Premier League Crowds Pack Football Stadiums Like Never Before
After 16 months of being locked out of games, soccer fans are flocking back to Premier League stadiums in record numbers and providing a timely boost to a sport whose finances were whacked by the pandemic.
With Covid restrictions lifted in the U.K. since the beginning of the season, attendances in the English top tier are averaging 39,440, according to statistics from transfermarkt.com. If continued, that would be a record for the competition’s near 30 year history.
The return of fans means Premier League clubs will rake in almost 700 million pounds ($955 million) of matchday income, according to Kieran Maguire, lecturer of football finance at Liverpool University. That reflects pent up demand after almost two years of “sitting on their cash” and also a widening interest in soccer, he said.
As the continent’s richest competition, the Premier League has fared better financially and the quicker lifting of Covid-19 restrictions has allowed clubs to attract larger crowds. In Spain’s La Liga this season, the average attendance has been 16,872, down from 26,811 in the season before the pandemic struck. Restrictions were only lifted in October.
The English figures -- with matches an average 95% full -- also exceed the restart following a suspension for World War II. Crowds in what was then called the First Division averaged 38,792 in the 1948-9 season, also in stadiums where people were crammed into standing areas.
Brighton & Hove Albion, for example, has sold a record number of season tickets and all corporate membership areas for the next five years. The space at its Amex Stadium also increased by 1,250 seats to 32,000, joining clubs such as Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in boosting capacity or moving to a new, larger home in recent years.
“I think there’s definitely pent up demand for live events,” said Paul Barber, Brighton’s chief executive officer.
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