This is part 7 of The Best of 2018: Scorum Super Series which consists of several articles of several different great and talented Scorum writers about the world of sports in 2018.
Today we are going to talk about the football leagues around the world which attracts the biggest audiences and lures the largest crowds of fans and spectators to their stadiums.
So buckle up and lean back while enjoying another different look onto the past year:
Like the years before, 2018 had a lot to offer in terms of sport. Records and personal bests were set and broken again, and also financially many clubs were happy to enjoy record sales and big revenues.
But it is not only the athletes and all the sportsmen and sportswomen who make this possible. Of course all the trainers and helpers deserve a big thank you too, especially the volunteers, who are indispensable at major events such as a football World Cup or the Olympic Games.
But for the atmosphere in all the venues, arenas and stadiums of this world we also need all those many loyal fans and spectators, who are an essential support of our favourite athletes and teams through their enthusiasm, their songs and their passion, which often borders on self-abandonment.
Even though some sports are struggling with a decline in spectators, football is looking pretty bright right now. In recent years many leagues were able to celebrate record attendances and enjoy full stadiums.
Two leagues are by far leading in term of the number of spectators, although there is also a clear winner. But we'll approach the top from behind and take a look at the top 5 leagues, measured by the average attendance.
The 5th place should come as a surprise to most, as this is the place which the Mexican Professional League, known as Liga MX or Primera División de México.
Founded in 1943, Liga MX currently has 18 teams and an average of 24,352 visitors.
The largest stadium is the world-famous Aztec Stadium in Mexico City. During the World Championships in 1970 and 1986, this stadium saw several games and, of course, the two final matches. At this pitch the German national team suffered a bitter defeat against the Argentinians led by Diego Maradonna in the final of the 1986 World Cup. At least the German squad were able to take revenge four years late in 1990 at the next World Cup in Italy, the first of so far four Championship for my home country which I could witness myself.
These days Club América is currently hosting their championship matches here, but their fans fill the 87,000-strong stadium with an average of only 30,000 fans.
The fullest stadium this year was the Estadio Universitario, the home ground of the Tigres UANL. One of the nicknames of the stadium is El Volcán , and it is often referred to by opposing players as "The Monster".
The whole scenery of this often sold-out stadium tends to leave some intimidating impressions on the opponent team when playing here. According to Mexican chroniclers, one of the most famous fan choreographies ever was created here, the famous La Ola Wave.
This year, the stadium, which has a capacity of 42,000 spectators, offered a second home to an average of 41,000 enthusiastic and inspiring fans.
The Mexican league has its own mode. Each season there are 2 championships, the Torneo Apertura in autumn and the Torneo Clausura in spring.
The stadiums from the teams of the bigger cities like Mexico City or the Monterrey region are often full and filled with big crowds of fans, but there are also regular matches in the smaller cities with less than 20,000 spectators coming to the stadiums. Four teams have a negative record of well under 10,000 this year, the lowest being Lobos BUAP, with fewer than 6,000 visitors.
Nevertheless, the Mexican league seems to be well received by the fans, so that the overall result is a solid average and a respectable 5th place, beating some more famous leagues like the the French Ligue 1, which ranks only 7th, even behind he Chinese Super League.
On rank 4 of the most visited leagues we find the prestigious Italian Serie A with an average of 24,767 fans in the stadiums.
In Italy there seems to be a very clear answer to the question which city is the most enthusiastic about football. Milan is clearly in the lead here, and both first division teams of the city Inter Milan and AC Milan are also far ahead when it comes down to the spectator average.
Both teams are playing their home match in the well known Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, also affectionately called San Siro, after the district it is located in.
On average, there are around 53,000 fans at AC Milan matches, and as many as 60,000 at Internazionale, who of course ensure a splendid atmosphere in the stadium round.
The Giuseppe-Meazza Stadium has a total of 80,018 seats, so there would still be plenty of room to accommodate more fans. And especially the city derbies of the two Milanese teams, the "Derby della Madonnina" are often sold out and a very special highlight in the city's football calendar.
And also when Juventus Turin is a guest at the San Siro for the Derby d'Italia against Inter, we can assume that the stadium is on fire. Both teams have been rivals since the 1930s and are competing with AC Milan to see who is the best team in Italy.
However, in terms of spectator numbers, some clubs are at the bottom of the league with an average of just over 10,000. So there's a very big gap here, but when looking at the league as a whole, visitor numbers have recovered after falling sharply in recent years due to several scandals and fan riots. Also the often very old stadiums and the nevertheless high entrance fees have had a very negative effect on the image of the Serie A.
So the trend is upwards again, and the Italian Tifosi are well known for their passion, which of course is also more than obvious in their love for football and their favorite teams. The Ultra movement also has its roots in the Italy of the 1950s and 1960s, and until today there are still many football enthusiasts who come to the stadium to cheer on their teams and bring with them a colourful equipment of flags, scarves and songs.
The Spanish La Liga came third with an average of 26,939 visitors.
In recent years the most successful league in the world has also hosted the most successful and famous players in its stadiums. Ronaldo and Messi are names that fill a football stadium all by themselves.
The three biggest teams also fill most stadiums. Real and Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona have the biggest share in the fact that the Spanish league is on the 3rd place in average attendance ranking.
Barcelona is the undisputed leader with an average of about 70,000 visitors this year. They play their home matches in the famous Camp Nou, which is the largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 99,354 spectators. To get a season ticket for the home games, you have to sign up for an extra waiting list and the waiting period is currently around 42 years. It still might be worse to try your luck.
Especially at the season's highlight, the game against the rival Real Madrid, Camp Nou is of course completely sold out up to the roof and offers everyone in the stadium, whether they are playing on the field or cheering on the stands a once for a lifetime experience with an unforgettable atmosphere, of which they will be raving all their lives.
FC Barcelona is also the team which welcomes the world's second largest number of visitors to their home games. They will only be surpassed by one team, which we will come to a little later.
Real Madrid have been playing their home game at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu since 1947. The stadium, named after the long-time president Bernabeu, has a capacity of 81,044 spectators, the average this year is around 64,000. So the last three-time Champions League winner still has potential to lure some more people to their home matches.
The highlights of the year are of course the matches against FC Barcelona, but also the derbies against city rival Atletico Madrid. On these occasions, the Bernabeu Stadium is best filled, even if it's not always sold out.
The third in the group of the big names is Atletico Madrid, which started playing at Wanda Metropolitano since the 2017-2018 season. Spain's third-largest stadium offers space for a total of 67,703 visitors and is also a pure football stadium.
Athletico Madrid attracts an average of 56,000 people, but particularly the city derby against Real draws significantly more visitors to the stadium. Especially in this decade Atletico has gained considerable popularity, after winning the UEFA Europa League and after finally winning the Spanish championship against the two serial winners Real and Barcelona. Also in the Champions League, they have been a permanent fixture and co-favourite for several years now.
But even if some clubs attract a lot of spectators, it doesn't look so positive all over the country. In the Spanish league too , there are some teams that pull the average down quite a bit. Half of the 20 teams in the Primera División have an average of less than 20,000 visitors and the taillight here is SD Eibar with only about 5,400 fans making the pilgrimage to their team's home games. Eibar's Ipurua Municipal Stadium in the northern Basque region only hold about 7,000 seats at a max, therefore even when always sold out hey won't be able to draw the average up a lot.
A big contrast in the supposedly strongest league in the world, where usually only the same teams can be found at the top.
Let's now come to the league that attracts the second most spectators worldwide to its stadiums, the Premier League. An average of 38,297 spectators attend the top English league matches and the difference to third place is already enormous.
The Premier League is currently the league in which clubs earn the most by marketing TV rights and can therefore spend way more money than other leagues on new players. And even the supposedly best coaches in the world can be easily persuaded to work on the island when offered a decent salary. Of course, all this contributes to the fact that the English league has become more and more popular and, despite the sometimes horrendous ticket prices, can still boast a high number of spectators. Even if here, as in the other leagues before, not all clubs are equally popular and visited.
The clear front runner is Manchester United, whose players have attracted almost 75,000 visitors this year. Even though their performance on the pitches throughout the nation didn't really hold up to the clubs and its supporters expectations and also the last English championship seems to be ages ago, well we are talking about exactly five years now, this doesn't seem to have any effect on the teams popularity.
The English record champion plays in the legendary Old Trafford, a mystic place for every football fan. After Wembley Stadium in London, Man United's 75,653-capacity stadium is the second largest in the United Kingdom.
Almost all matches are sold out and one of the most important highlights of the year in recent days has been the city derby against Manchester City, which became English champions last season but "only" averaged around 54,000.
In the case of City, the high financial contributions made by its foreign donors have had a very clearly visible impact.
The team with the second-highest average is one of the many teams from the capital London, the number of Premier League teams there is way above average. The Gunners play in the Emirates Stadium, opened in 2006, which can accommodate a total of 60,260 spectators. Arsenal can rely on a loyal following, most matches are sold out and the average is just under 60,000.
Since 6 teams from the capital are currently in the Premier League, there are of course an above-average number of local derbies, which always attract a larger number of visitors.
But probably the high number of visitors has to be viewed with caution. As the BBC claims to have revealed this year, some clubs are clearly cheating their numbers up by taking into account the number of season tickets sold for each match and not the number of people actually sitting in the stadium. In particular, the BBC mentioned West Ham United and Manchester City. West Ham is said to have increased its average by over 10,000 in this way. Of course, more spectators always means a better position when it comes to negotiations about sponsorship money.
In England too, there are great differences in the size of the stadiums. The AFC Bournemouth plays in the former Dean Court, now called Vitality Stadium, which has only 11,464 seats and is by far the smallest venue in the Premier League. Several teams have an average of just over 20,000 and attract significantly fewer fans than the big teams.
However in general is the Premier League super popular and the officials themselves claim that the occupancy rate of the English stadiums exceeds 95 percent. If it were true, it would be a great result.
Let's now move on to the top league, the league that attracts the most fans in the world to its stadiums. Even though the German Bundesliga has clearly lagged behind the English and especially the Spanish leagues in terms of winning international titles, when it comes to fans, no other league can match the top German football clubs.
An average of 44,646 spectators attend the matches of the football teams who are playing in the highest German league , a truly more than impressive number. This is significantly more than the second-placed Premier League and thus the Bundesliga is the clear winner.
As in the other leagues, there are of course clear differences in Germany as well. Borussia Dortmund is at the top of the fan affection.
A total of 81,365 spectators fit into the Westfalenstadion, which now operates under the name Signal Iduna Park, and the average in 2018 is supposed to be 79,886. Almost all BVB home games are sold out and those who want to buy tickets have to come early.
55,000 season tickets are issued every year but of course having a place on the waiting list does not necessarily mean that you will be considered at some point in the next few years.
Borussia Dortmund attracts the most fans worldwide to its stadium and the atmosphere on the stands is absolutely outstanding. The south stand is also by the fans of the opposing teams respectfully and admiringly referred to as the "Gelbe Wand" (Yellow Wall), a reference to the colors of Borussia Dortmund and its fans standing like a wall behind their team and supporting it with all their might.
A game in the Westfalenstadion is one of the highlights of many teams and players and when in the German Cup competition some minor club have been drawn to be the guest in Germany's biggest football stadium, players and fans alike are always looking forward to their upcoming visit in this football temple.
The record champion Bayern München came in second in terms of spectator popularity. The Allianz Arena officially offers space for 75,021 visitors and was sold out this year at every home match. A hundred percent quota is more than impressive at such a stadium size, especially if we consider the performances of the reigning German champion in this season so far.
But the Bayern fans are loyal and support their team even when things are not going perfectly and times are a little rough. With 291,000 people, FC Bayern München is the club with the highest number of registered members in Germany and also has 350,920 fans who are organised in their own fan clubs.
But the atmosphere in the Allianz Arena does not come close to the atmosphere in the Westfalenstadion. Now they are expanding the standing room areas, and Bayern hopes to finally bring more passion into the stadium again.
In the worldwide ranking, with 75,000 spectators at every home match FC Bayern is in third place, only behind Borussia Dortmund and FC Barcelona.
But in many other German stadiums the atmosphere is superb and thrilling as well. Schalke 04's Veltins-Arena, which with 61,788 visitors is almost always sold out, is ranked third in Germany. The arch rival of Borussia Dortmund is also a very special crowd puller with a very large and loud troop of followers.
The SC Freiburg playing down in the southwest of Germany has the lowest average. The club from the tranquil town near the Black Forest plays in the Schwarzwaldstadion (which of course can be translated to "Black Forest stadium") and attracts a total of 24,000 visitors. But also in Freiburg almost every home game is sold out, no matter which opponent may come.
The continuing high average of the Bundesliga is also remarkable since one of the biggest magnets, Hamburger SV, is now playing in the second league for the very first time this season. But even in the 2nd Bundesliga, HSV still brings the crowds into its stadiums. From a worldwide point of view, the team from northern Germany is in an incredible 20th place this year when it comes to spectators. And we are talking about a team which has been playing half the year in the second league. Nobody should ever say again that people from Northern Germany are rather cold and reserved, just visit the Volksparkstadion and convince yourself from the contrary.
Football is part of the German attitude towards life and this passion is lived out to the maximum every weekend, especially in the stadiums around the country. The image of the Bundesliga in terms of fan culture is more than just positive far beyond national borders and football fans from all over the world come to Germany just to experience and enjoy the atmosphere in the stadiums.
When it comes to fan performance, the German fans are leaders and the bring their persevering and loud songs with them on their travels to the many international away games and impress supporters in the stadiums throughout Europe.
In the last few years, the number of visitors has been rising steadily, even though the peak of the 2011/12 season has not quite been reached.
My personal favorite clubs Union Berlin and Hamburger SV are both playing in the second league at the moment, but their supporters always offer very special performances at every home game as well as at their appearances on foreign ground. Visits to the Alte Försterei in Berlin or to the Hamburger Volksparkstadion are extraordinary experiences, which every real football fan will never be able to forget.
The fans of FC Union Berlin are showing you a little example of what kind of atmosphere you can expect in German stadiums, even when travelling to away games, during their cup appearance at Borussia Dortmund in the Westfalenstadion, when they were singing through the whole halftime break.
The German Bundesliga is a worthy leader in fan popularity and will hopefully remain so in the years to come. Since not a single club is controlled and operated by a foreign owner, most fans still feel comfortable here and right after a game is ended they always look forward to the next kick-off.
Thank you for reading today's article. I case you missed some of the other posts of this series, please follow those links and have a look: