Scandinavian Spotlight: FC Copenhagen Remain Top as Attendances on the Rise
The Superliga race in Denmark continued last weekend, albeit largely uneventfully. FC Copenhagen remain top of course, but the chasing pack missed a chance to cut the gap further when the leaders played out a dull goalless draw with Aarhus, who drop to fifth level on points with Horsens who were 2-1 winners away to struggling Lyngby.
Second and third played each other in the game of the weekend but this too proved to be a huge disappointment as both teams cancelled the other out. Another goalless draw keeps host Nordsjælland four behind FCK with Midtjylland a further five behind.
Despite FCK struggling with poor form recently and an over-reliance on the goals of former Panathinaikos and OFI Crete hitman Dame N'Doye of Senegal, the others seem incapable of closing the gap any further. It was of course up to 10 points just a few weeks into the season after Copenhagen's blistering start but after narrowing the gap the rest seem to have stalled too. They were doubtless hoping to capitalise on Copenhagen's exertions in the Europa League last week but to no avail.
Even at the other end of the table there wasn't much great news for the other big capital side Brøndby who remain third bottom after they too drew 1-1 with last placed FC Køge. Although still struggling, Brøndby have at least established a six-point lead over Lyngby who occupy the other relegation spot just over half way through the season.
One bright spot for Brøndby is the fact that the fans seem to be sticking with them fairly well. Coming from Copenhagen they do naturally have a big potential fanbase and, despite languishing in the depths all season so far, their attendances have remained fairly healthy with the season average still well over the 12,000 mark. Copenhagen lead the way with attendances reflecting their top of the table status and well over 14,000 is their average for the season thus far. They have also had the season's top crowd this year when more than 25,000 trooped to the Parken Stadion for the game against Aarhus. The record attendance was set as recently as 2006 when 41,201 saw them play Brøndby.
While these attendance figures pale into insignificance compared to the giant numbers in Germany or England in particular, they are very healthy for a country of only five million people and the season aggregate will probably be somewhere approaching 1.75 million spectators - around 30 per cent of the total population of the country.
New stadiums and the relative success of FCK and others in Europe have undoubtedly contributed to a rise in attendance at games over the last 10 or 15 years. Although the recession has had a slight effect in the last couple of seasons the overall trend has been upwards in the last decade or so.
A similar trend can be observed in both Norway and Sweden too. The total number of spectators in Norway's top league 25 years ago was roughly half a million (average of less than 4,500 per game) whereas four years ago it peaked at just more than two million - marginally over 40 per cent of the population. Again, the recent economic problems have had a slight effect, but Scandinavia in general has avoided the worst of the recession.
One common complaint heard from fans though is that the cost of attending games is too high, especially when comparing the product to the superior offerings seen every day on TV from abroad. Taking into account the higher standard of living in Scandinavia though the price of a ticket is far less in relative terms than the UK.
Germany of course has Europe's highest attendances with last year's Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund averaging just under 80,000 and charging about a third of the price for the cheapest ticket that you would expect to have to cough up to see the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United.
In my opinion football has become vastly overpriced in general despite the falling percentage of a club's income coming from gate money. The bigger clubs will still fill the stadiums no problem and indeed many are looking at new or enlarged grounds but smaller clubs need all the help they can get and surely cutting a few quid off the price of a ticket and getting bums on seats can only help.
Scandinavia doesn't have the huge prices and huge stars of English football or the cheap tickets and huge crowds of Germany, but a consistent rise in attendance and interest in the game can only be a good thing and they must be doing something right.
Article by Iain Macfadzean