Attendance in the Premier League

Posted on May 22nd, 2013   

Is poor performance by a team punished by low attendance by fans? Attendance figures have just been released by the BBC from the past season, prompting us to look into whether or not football supporters are emotional consumers or rational ones who chose to go to games based upon the quality of football available? At a first glance it would appear to be so with Stoke, Man City and Chelsea all down on the previous season’s average attendance and all three teams having been perceived to have had weak seasons.

There are a number of contributing factors here. For example teams that have been promoted would be expected to see a greater increase between the previous season in the Championship and the one spent in the Premier league due to higher attendance in the Premier League than the Championship. We also might expect to see some kind of London effect as in many ways the market for supporting a team is different in London to elsewhere with 6 teams from London and a greater range of choice (if supporters are truly fickle).

Performance Related Attendance

We used the Dectech Team Strength Parameters to estimate the change in strength of teams. See here for a further explanation of how we calculate them. We used stepwise selection to see if the change in overall strength, attacking strength, whether or not a team was new to the Premier League or based in London has made a difference to percentage attendance.

The graphs below summarises the changes in teams’ attack strength and overall strength over the season.

Southampton have hugely improved over the season, while Fulham have got worse. Although Stoke, Man City and Chelsea were perceived to have been poor this season, the numbers do not entirely back this up. Man City’s attack has got worse but the other two teams have improved.

As you might expect, we found that being promoted increases attendance, as does an improvement in attacking strength. Somewhat strangely being in London reduces the percentage increase in attendance numbers. There are a number of ways to explain this. In October we discovered that when fans go to matches they are forced to pay a London premium on their ticket and even their pie. This could be discouraging potential new fans from attending these matches.

There is one crucial piece of information missing from this analysis. We haven’t considered capacity of the stadiums. Some of the London stadiums are in need of expansion, so their improvement in quality can’t be reflected in increased tickets sales as they are already at maximum capacity.