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http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Soccer/2009/06/08/9716906-ap.html

Bundesliga packs fans in

By Jerome Pugmire, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

PARIS - For all its star players and financial muscle, England's Premier League failed to match the popularity of Germany's Bundesliga last season when it came to getting their fans through the turnstiles.

Germany led the way in terms of attendance in Europe's five major leagues with an average of 42,600 per match, followed by the Premier League with 35,600, according to figures published by the football business unit of consultants Deloitte.

The Spanish league and Italy's Serie A, which each attracted just under 25,000 fans a game over the season, are more popular domestically than the French league, which only draws around 21,000.

Taken together, the sheer number of supporters going to matches in Europe was impressive, doubtless helped by a highly entertaining season in many leagues.

A total of 13,535,272 fans followed the Premier League campaign, in which Manchester United won a record-equalling 18th title and the relegation dogfight went down to the last day, sending Alan Shearer's Newcastle and Middlesbrough to the second-tier Championship.

Despite that dismal season, nearly 50,000 Geordies flocked to St. James' Park each week to watch their team and although relegation will hit Newcastle hard financially, the Magpies' fans are unlikely to stop digging into their pockets. Attendances are still expected to be good, even if the team will be playing the likes of Blackpool rather than Manchester United.

The passion of English fans also extends well beyond the bigger clubs of the topflight.

Not many visiting teams enjoyed the hostile atmosphere of Stoke City's deafeningly loud Britannia Stadium last season. But the home fans certainly did, with Stoke marking its first time in the topflight since 1984-85 with an increase of nearly 60 per cent in average home gates.

Stoke's increase was not typical of the Premier League, where overall crowds were down 1.27 per cent. It was still the second highest total since the Premier League started in 1992-93, though, and the second best topflight mark since 1976-77.

Even so, the figures show that Germany packed in an average of 7,000 fans a game more than the money-spinning Premier League and its most popular club could even match the likes of Man United.

Despite not being considered one of the top three European leagues in terms of quality, the Bundesliga boasted a seventh straight increase in crowds, totalling 13,027,226 for the 18-team league - two clubs fewer than the Premier League.

Although, the average ticket price in Germany is markedly lower than in England.

There was no shortage of excitement on the pitch as Wolfsburg shocked Bayern Munich by clinching the club's first title, helped by strikers Edin Dzeko and Grafite setting a Bundesliga scoring record of 54 goals between them.

While United's players retained their league title, helped by an average gate of 75,309 at Old Trafford, Borussia Dortmund's supporters were almost as devoted and numerous - with 74,788 typically turning out to watch the Schwarzgelben (Black and Yellows).

However, when it comes to big games - and big stadiums - both clubs took a back seat to Barcelona's Nou Camp.

Barca dominated Spanish football on the field and in the stands, winning a domestic double and the Champions League. Nearly 96,000 of its fans had hoped to see Barcelona seal the title on May 10, but a 3-3 draw at home to Villarreal meant Barca had to wait another week.

Over in Italy, crowds were on the rise, although the figures available have two rounds remaining. There was still clearly a marked rise from the average of 23,000 last year, and Milan remains the place to be seen in footballing terms.

Inter Milan won a fourth straight title and averaged 54,563 fans at the San Siro. AC Milan finished third, but outdid Jose Mourinho's team with an average of 59,012 at the same stadium - falling just short of Arsenal's 60,040 at Emirates Stadium.

Two-time European Cup winner Juventus is only in 10th place with 22,318, but was playing in the smaller Stadio Olimpico while the Stadio delle Alpi is being rebuilt.

Either way, the situation is more encouraging than in France.

It can be very hard for some clubs to drum up enthusiasm in the French topflight, especially when it comes to away matches. In one of the low points of the season, only seven Caen fans travelled from Normandy to watch their team play in Sochaux on a cold night in December.

It certainly takes a lot to get Monaco fans excited, with the Stade Louis II stadium forging a reputation as one of the quietest in Europe. While it can offer attractive tax breaks to its players, it won't guarantee passionate fans.

Monaco is last in France for average attendance (8,511 - including its most famous fan, Prince Albert) and for percentage of stadium filled (45.95 per cent).

Defender Jose-Karl Pierre-Fanfan sums up what he witnessed as a player with Monaco, and in a hotbed of British football at Ibrox Park, the home of Glasgow-based club Rangers.

"Monaco is a good club, but they have a problem in terms of identity. The Monegasques follow football in the papers, but they don't go to the stadium," Pierre-Fanfan said by telephone.

"Ibrox is a stadium which breathes football and you can feel there is a soul. Even outside the ground, people are screaming. They live for the club every day."

Though Marseille's Stade Velodrome would grace any league, with its season average 52,276 putting it above Liverpool and Chelsea, the rest of France is clearly lagging.

Despite highly affordable tickets, just under eight million (7,998,920) fans went to a French league game in the past year. The good news for next season is that Lens and Montpellier have been promoted and their passionate supporters should boost figures.

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While I rate La Liga and the Premiership higher than the Bundesliga (who doesn't?), I have thought for years that the Bundesliga in many ways is the best league in Europe in a number of categories. Aside from all of the great points made above, they have only one huge club, crappy old Bayern Munchen. Anyone here think that a team like Wolfsburg would have stood a chance winning La Liga or the Premiership? While the monopoly of the rich clubs is only getting stronger in the big 3 leagues (including series A), the Bundesliga is showing its merits.

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The Bundesliga clubs have done out standing work finding their target fan base. And lets face it, it's a very entertaining league to watch. Has everything anyone could want. Good tactical football, some great individual quality, it's high energy, and a pretty physical league. (Bit of a gap in team quality some times but what league doesn't have that, and I think the Bundesliga suffer less from this than some other leagues). For me, I'd happily watch Bundesliga before any of the other leagues outside of the UK (Although Argentine football is somewhat similar. Was quite surprised with the way the play the game down there).

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It would make more sense to look at the top 50 or 75 clubs in terms of average attendance for each country, if we want to determine the #1 country in terms of match-going supporters. Just looking at top-flight attendance makes countries with strong 2nd and 3rd division support look bad since obviously nobody is going to support more than one club.

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Impressive but 15k and 5k for the second and third-flight, respectively, is surely well below England.

quote:Originally posted by youllneverwalkalone

I would think the legislated elimination of terracing in England has a large implications on these figures. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought you could still see a top flight German match for about $20 on the terrace? It's hard to get a seat at the Carling Cup in any Premiership ground from less than 20 quid.

Yeah, that's what kinda blows about the EPL for a foreign visitor. But if you live in England, everything is more expensive there compared to Germany, so the football prices need to be taken in that context. If a pint a beer costs 3 quid in London, suddenly 30 quid for a EPL match doesn't seem so bad.

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Impressive but 15k and 5k for the second and third-flight, respectively, is surely well below England.

quote:Originally posted by youllneverwalkalone

I would think the legislated elimination of terracing in England has a large implications on these figures. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought you could still see a top flight German match for about $20 on the terrace? It's hard to get a seat at the Carling Cup in any Premiership ground from less than 20 quid.

Yeah, that's what kinda blows about the EPL for a foreign visitor. But if you live in England, everything is more expensive there compared to Germany, so the football prices need to be taken in that context. If a pint a beer costs 3 quid in London, suddenly 30 quid for a EPL match doesn't seem so bad.

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quote:Originally posted by earlimus

While I rate La Liga and the Premiership higher than the Bundesliga (who doesn't?), I have thought for years that the Bundesliga in many ways is the best league in Europe in a number of categories. Aside from all of the great points made above, they have only one huge club, crappy old Bayern Munchen. Anyone here think that a team like Wolfsburg would have stood a chance winning La Liga or the Premiership? While the monopoly of the rich clubs is only getting stronger in the big 3 leagues (including series A), the Bundesliga is showing its merits.

Totally agree.

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quote:Originally posted by FCH

Seems like the attendance in England for league one and the league championship is higher than those numbers for the second and third Bundesliga in Germany.

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/stats/attendance?league=eng.3&cc=5901

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/stats/attendance?league=eng.2&cc=5901

It goes up and down. I think they had much higher attendance than the CCC last season (2007-2008) as BIG traditional clubs Borussia Moenchengladbach and FC Koeln were still in the 2nd Bundesliga.

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^ Next season, Fortuna Dusseldorf joins Bundesliga 2. They filled their stadium (50,000 +) for their last game of the Liga 3 season, in a league which sometimes numbers fans in the 100's. That should boost the numbers again for the Bundesliga 2, even though they lost Nurnberg to the top flight

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