Now that the group stages of the Euro 2012 qualification are over, I thought I’d take a look at the attendances. It’s especially interesting this time around as many of the games have been played on Friday/Tuesday rather than the traditional (and I use that term very loosely) Saturday/Wednesday. For the record of the 240 qualification ties 26 were played on a Saturday, 4 were played on a Tuesday, 103 were played on a Friday and 106 were played on a Wednesday.
The Euro 2012 qualifiers were attended by 5m+ supporters and the average attendance during qualification was 21,249. The figure of 21,249 was a drop of around 600 from the World Cup 2010 qualification (av. 21.841) though this can perhaps partially be explained by the absence of Poland and Ukraine who are hosting the Euro 2012 finals next summer.
It may come as a surprise to many, but the England national football side are actually very popular, even in qualification tournaments and even at the current Wembley prices. Despite a lot of the negative coverage that the qualifiers get during the international break, watching an international side is actually a very popular past-time in the British Isles. During Euro 2012 qualification 5,099,950 fans attended matches. Of those 5m+ people 17% can be accounted for by the combined home attendances of Wales, Scotland, England, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (who had the 34th highest average attendance in Europe). It’s a quite remarkable statistic that goes some way to demonstrating just how popular attending international football still is in the British Isles.
The countries who improved their attendances most from their World Cup campaigns almost all came from Eastern Europe, whilst Wales’ attendances saw an improvement of almost 40% overall, the visit of England boosted crowd figures significantly.
Andorra saw their attendances decline by the highest percentage, the visit of England artificially inflated their average attendance figures during World Cup qualification and they are now back down to three digits. Interestingly World Champions Spain feature as one of the sides whose attendances suffered the most, though this may be more to do with the laudable practice of taking the Spanish national side on the road to towns with small stadia like Salamanca, Logrono, Alicante and Grenada than the public growing weary of their tiki-taka heroes.
From the limited amount of data it does appear that football fans still prefer Saturday football to Friday. However I think the data should be consumed with a bucketful of salt as the data could easily be skewed by a couple of high attendance fixtures being played on Saturday (Wales vs England was on a Saturday for example).