Here's a look at what the attendance data tells us about the biggest clubs in the Championship for next season
For this new article, I’m going to be looking at the biggest clubs that will be playing at Championship level next season. For the purposes of this, average attendance data will be used from last season to make the selections; this will consist of information from the Premier League and the Championship.
Of course, determining the size of a football club is always a hot topic and fans will disagree on the best criteria. In my view, there are a range of factors that should be considered but it’s always difficult to argue with the raw data of attendance figures and stadium size.
In this content, I will also be considering the percentage of the overall capacity that is full. This is important data to analyse because it considers clubs that may be able to fill a bigger capacity if they had a bigger stadium. Of course, there will be other bits of data incorporated and personal opinion for good measure.
So, now that is all out of the way – let’s get stuck into the choices…
1. Sunderland (41,286 Average Attendance Last Season)
Of course, we can’t say for sure until the season begins – but Sunderland ought to have the highest average attendance in the Championship next season. The Stadium of Light has a total capacity of 49,000 and they managed to fill 84.3% of that in the Premier League last season.
Conventional wisdom would dictate that the average attendance would drop a bit in the Championship next season. The team’s performance, in the league, will also play a part and my followers will know that I’m tipping Sunderland to struggle.
Nevertheless, their supporters tend to be fairly loyal and turn up each week, even if the team is struggling. I personally see them in a similar place as Aston Villa were last season, and they will need time to adapt before mounting a promotion challenge. The club are also yet to appoint a new manager, which certainly can’t be helping their preparations for the new campaign.
2. Aston Villa (32,107 Average Attendance Last Season)
Aston Villa were a club in serious decline when they were relegated from the Premier League – and simply couldn’t reverse their fortunes in the Championship. They are another massive club in the league and are likely to dominate those all-important attendance figures. It’s also worth noting that they may get even bigger gates next season if the team performs better.
Villa Park is certainly a very impressive venue to play football and somewhere away teams love to go to. The stadium currently has a capacity of 42,682, which appears to be more than adequate for their current needs. The average attendance that the club managed was 32,107 with 75% of total capacity, showing that there is certainly room for them to get even bigger gates next season.
As mentioned, team performance always plays into these things – and Villa were a mid-table team last season. I have tipped Steve Bruce’s men to be one of the leading teams in the Championship this season in a previous article – and that is likely to have a significant bearing on their attendance. In any case, it’s certainly good for the league to have so many big clubs competing in it each season.
3. Middlesbrough (30,449 Average Attendance Last Season)
This is where the ranking starts to get a little bit tricky due to the comparisons between Premier League and Championship figures. In other words, the numbers may drop a bit for the Championship next season. However, it is still fairly certain that Middlesbrough will have one of the leading average attendances next season in the league.
Of the relegated sides, Middlesbrough have the best chance of bouncing straight back to the Premier League, in my view. A lot of that is based on the fact that they have played at Championship level recently – and the appointment of Garry Monk is a very smart move. Monk did a very good job with Leeds United last season and will be looking to build on that work.
The Riverside Stadium is another impressive venue that will be hosting games in the Championship next season. The capacity of the ground is 33,786 and that has the potential to be expanded to 42,000 in the future. In terms of last season, the club managed an average attendance of 30,449 with a 90.2% capacity. It will certainly be interesting to see how many of their fans will be packed in next season.
4. Derby County (29,042 Average Attendance Last Season)
Derby County will be disappointed with their season in which there were high hopes again. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that next season could finally be their year. Pride Park is another one of those impressive Championship grounds that wouldn’t be out of place in the Premier League.
Derby fans also tend to be fairly loyal that can only help the club’s continuous drive for success. The ground is relatively new as it was built in 1997 and can house 33,597 supporters. The average attendance, last season, was 29,042 with an 86.4% capacity. This shows that Derby are another club with loyal fans and those attendance figures may well increase further if the team perform better next season.
One of the most shocking moments from last season was when Gary Rowett lost his job as Birmingham City manager, despite his team being 7th in the Championship league table at the time. It was a decision that the Blues nearly paid the ultimate price for as they flirted with relegation at the end of the season. One thing we do know for sure though is that Rowett is a very capable operator at this level. The Rams have every chance of a successful season with him at the helm.
5. Leeds United (27,697 Average Attendance Last Season)
Leeds United are a huge club at Championship level and no one is about to deny or argue with that. However, their success last season in finishing seventh in the league and nearly reaching the play-offs was unexpected. Personally, I put a lot of that success down to the managerial talents of Garry Monk.
Unfortunately, Leeds were not able to agree terms on an extended contract and Monk has now joined Middlesbrough. However, the Yorkshire team will be hoping to have another good season under new head coach Thomas Christiansen. Elland Road is a fantastic venue that has a capacity of 37,890.
The club though struggles to fill the capacity at this level, showing that the ground is more than big enough for them. Average attendance figures from last season were 27,697 with a 73.1% capacity. Therefore, the club had around 10,000 empty seats on average – proving the potential to increase those attendance figures further.
6. Sheffield Wednesday (27,129 Average Attendance Last Season)
Sheffield Wednesday are another big club with a rich history of being in the Premier League. However, things went badly wrong for them as we have seen with various other big clubs. In the end, Wednesday have had to rebuild themselves from the lower leagues. In theory, the club are not too far away from getting back to the Premier League, shown by their run to the play-offs in the past two consecutive seasons.
Wednesday are another club that struggles to fill their stadium capacity at this level. Hillsborough is one of the most famous football stadiums’ in England with a capacity of 39,732. The club had an average attendance of 27,139, last season with a 68.1% capacity. As mentioned previously, there is certainly room for growth with those numbers.
The Yorkshire team will be keen to carry on the momentum they have enjoyed in recent seasons. Carlos Carvalhal recently agreed to stay at the club, which will have certainly have been a big boost for them. The Owls’ stadium size certainly shows how much potential there could be for them – if they could return to the Premier League.
7. Norwich City (26,335 Average Attendance Last Season)
Norwich City are the final entry and their attendance figures are interesting for a variety of reasons. Carrow Road is certainly a fine stadium that has hosted Premier League and European football. The current capacity of the ground is 27,244 and there are no current plans to expand the stadium while Norwich remain a Championship club.
What’s interesting though is the club badly need a bigger stadium, more than any other club in this list. The average attendance figures from last season were 26,335 with a, 96.7% capacity. In fact, that capacity figure was only beaten by Newcastle United last season. One thing we can say for sure is Norwich fans tend to be very loyal. This was proved when the club kept high attendance figures as a League One side.
The club are also known to have over 20,000 season ticket holders each season, something few Championship clubs can match. The Canaries could well be a Championship team to watch next season – and that will mean that casual match tickets will be hard to come back. If the club could find the finance to expand the ground it would certainly be interesting to see how many more fans could be crammed in on a regular basis.
This completes the content section of this article. If you enjoy articles like this, then please keep an eye on my profile page as there will be more to come from me. The Championship doesn’t get much coverage on a lot of the big sports websites, so I’m happy to offer something a bit different.
Today, the subject was on attendance figures and I’m hoping that will lead to an interesting debate on what criteria should be used to define how big a club is. Of course, stadium and a loyal fan base are important factors – but what about history and current success? Let me know your thoughts on this and all things related to the Championship.