Welcome back to another year of the Barclay’s Premier League. Norwich, Watford and Bournemouth have all been promoted, players are moving and deals are being signed. Fans no longer have to wait in anticipation of games that matter, the Premier League broke ground on the 2015/16 season on August 8th and it’s a long road ahead for all 20 teams in England’s top flight until a champion is crowned in May.
Fans are on that long trip as much as any player as they live and breathe by the performance of their club, their undying support is exemplified by those lucky enough to show up and watch the matches live.
This year every stadium in England combines for a total capacity of 757,818, making for an average Premier League capacity of 37,891. This year Business of Soccer has decided to include one more wrinkle into our attendance analysis, Away fan travel distance.
There were countless matches last season that were just shy of sellout crowds with 99.9x% of capacity full. This is always a difficult statistic because tickets are difficult to find for so many matches that many wonder how they all aren’t sold out. One caveat to understand is that the Premier League mandates a minimum of 10% of capacity be made available to supporters of the away club. This could mean that some games were technically sellouts as far as home fans are concerned because they filled every seat available to them where as the remaining 100 were away fans who never showed up. Or it could mean some premium box ticket holders just didn’t show up. Who knows.
Without away ticket allocations or sales figures made public it’s impossible to know. One thing that is for certain though, is that every club has a contingent who, no matter the distance, make the trip on away days. We may not be able to track exactly how many but all season we will be making note of the average distance that away fans traveled that gameweek, who had it rough, who had it easy and who barely had the leave their own front yard.
On to gameweeks 1 & 2…
At 38,722 & 34,926, Gameweeks 1 & 2 respectively, outperformed Gameweeks 1 & 2 of the 2014/15 season in terms of overall average attendance across all matches. Without knowing how many there were, the average away fan traveled 204.41 km (127.01 miles). Southampton fans definitely had the longest distance to travel at 453.12 km (281.56 miles) with Arsenal fans having to travel the grueling 10.58 km (6.57 miles) across London to West Ham’s Boleyn Ground.
Overall the average home stadium capacity for Opening week this season was 39,500, 1609 above the league average, though it dropped 8.14% to 36,282 for week 2. Like the gameweeks’ overall average attendance, overall stadium fill rates exceeded last season’s numbers with 97.84% in week 1 and 96.48% in week 2. The overall attendance dropped from Gameweek 1 to 2 which is to be expected with the drop in overall average home team capacity but stadiums were also less full by 1.36% which is more of an appropriate indicator of whether crowds were larger beyond taking sheer headcount.
With that said, lets look at the top performers who led the league in full crowds, as well as the venues who brought the average down. Norwich City may not have grabbed the headlines in opening week with a loss to Crystal Palace but they were the only home game to post a sellout crowd, exceeding their 27,036 capacity by 76 fans. Hats off to the first sellout of the season. Leicester City’s King Power Stadium and Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium were right on their heels and many other venues just as close in the 99.9x% full range.
Sunderland and the Stadium of Light was definitely not the brightest attendance star, posting the lowest fill rate of 84%. Ironically it was against Norwich in week two but to be fair 84% of the 5th largest stadium in the Premier League is still a 41,379 attendance. West Brom and newly promoted Watford complete the bottom three with low 90’s fill rates.
It’s obviously very early in the season, just like the players, fans can be just getting into the groove of the season but with the first two gameweeks now complete, every team has played a home game. Here’s how each club compares to the other in terms of attendance and fill rate.