Alarm bells ringing as football stadia attendance hit new low

Alarm bells ringing as football stadia attendance hit new low

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Alarm bells ringing as football stadia attendance hit new low

Bozbaykuşlar, Istanbul BB’s famously entertaining fan group, can fill less than the one-tenth of the gigantic Atatürk Olympic Stadium during their team’s games. Hürriyet photo

Following the match-fixing scandal, Turkish football suffers another blow as top-flight match attendance figures hit a new low.

The average home turnout of a Spor Toto Super League team has fallen to as low as 11,250 per game, the daily Hürriyet reported yesterday, showing figures are not only lagging far behind Europe’s top leagues, but are actually lower than last year.

Turkish teams failed to fill even half of the stadia during top-flight games. Meanwhile, Germany’s Bundesliga has attracted the continent’s highest attendances this campaign, with 92.9 percent of the stands full. The English Premier League has a 91.6 percent success in filling its stadia, while Spanish La Liga, boasting arguably the top two teams of the moment Barcelona and Real Madrid, comes third with 89.3 percent.

Italy, fourth in average attendance, falls behind Dutch and French competitors percentage-wise, filling 53.7 of its stadia. The Dutch report 86.8 percent of capacity and the French only 70 percent. But even the Italian Serie A is far ahead of the Turkish Super League, filling just 44.8 of its seats each match.
The match-fixing investigation listed a total of 93 football officials, players and coaches as suspects and involved eight clubs; undoubtedly a key factor in the low interest. Another issue could be the congested schedule which may have led to a fixture hangover for the fans.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) decided to postpone the start of the league by one month, adding a playoff round to the end of the season in order “to bring some excitement to the scandal-hit football,” the TFF chief Mehmet Ali Aydınlar said.

“I think [the low interest] has three main reasons,” Bağış Erten, a sports columnist for daily Radikal told Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. “First, of course, is the problem-filled nature of our football world, following the match-fixing case. Second, the quality of our game is definitely not among the top five in Europe. And third, the introduction of a playoff gave a sense of insignificance to the regular season games.”

However, last year’s average figures, 14,058 per game, were not satisfactory either, signaling the match-fixing investigation and playoff are perhaps not the only factors in poor crowd attendence.
“It definitely has to do with our flawed football culture,” Erten said. “Stadiums are not in good condition, atmospheres are not attractive and tickets are expensive.”

Erten also pointed out the attendance figures for Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, the two frontrunners with around 37,000 spectator average, can be misleading. “Galatasaray has a new and improved stadium, as well as a new and improved squad. And Fenerbahçe fans show an increased support to their teams. So they are not good indicators,” he said.

If those two teams are left off, the average falls as low as 8,031 per game for the remaining 16 teams, which cannot even compare with second-tier Bundesliga or the English Championship.

Apparently, as the football world is trying to solve the mysterious match-fixing case, we should perhaps be concerned with giving the game its glamor back.