Football fans – for the most part – are a fiercely loyal bunch. And because of this loyalty, the football fanatics of clubs around Europe boldly claim that their club has the best fans in all the world.
There’s no doubt that every team will have its share of world class fans, but fortunately there is one way we can use actual data to measure a club’s support: match attendance.
Thankfully, the folks at CIES Football Observatory – a research group that specialises in the statistical analysis of football – have released a report analysing match attendances in 51 national football leagues situated in 42 different countries, for the last 15 seasons.
In short, we now have data that show the highest average attendances for 50 clubs in world football since 2013 – and they’re all below for your reading pleasure.
Real Betis – 35,664
We start with Betis, a club whose nickname, Viva el Betis aunque pierda! (“Long live Betis even when they lose!”), is indicative of the loyal support Los Verdiblancos enjoy.
The club won the Spanish league title in 1935 and the Copa del Rey in 1977 and 2005, but were relegated from La Liga in 2009 and 2014. Even during these periods there support never wavered, and Betis currently find themselves mid-table in La Liga this season.
Persepolis FC – 36,025
What, you never heard of the Red Army? Founded in 1963, Persepolis have been a heavyweight in the Iranian top flight ever since, winning 11 league titles.
As such you’d expect some vociferous support for the side, though the club is owned by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, so how true the attendance figures at the Azadi Stadium are is up for debate. With that said, last year women were allowed to attend their games for the first time in 40 years, so their attendance figures could continue to rise.
Urawa Red Diamonds – 36,468
The Urawa Reds play in Japan’s J1 League, and are one of the nation’s most successful club sides, boasting five league titles, seven Emperor Cup triumphs and two J. League cups.
Despite their success and boasting a 63,700-capacity stadium, the Reds have ‘only’ managed an average attendance of just under 36,500, which explains why they aren’t higher on the list.
Valencia CF – 37,615
Los Ches are one of the most famous clubs in Spain, with six La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups(the predecessor to the UEFA Cup), one UEFA Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and two UEFA Super Cups to their name.
The Oranges have played their games at the 49,500-seater Mestalla since 1923, though they are expected to move into the new 75,000-seater Nou Mestalla in 2020, which should see an increase to their attendance.
AS Roma – 37,621
The Serie A giants have enjoyed fanatical support for generations, with their somewhat annoying/somewhat humorous Twitter admin account doing their part to increase their following worldwide.
All Roma players banned from taking photos with Drake until the end of the season
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) April 15, 2019
Like Valencia, Roma have plans to move to a new stadium in 2022, which will have a smaller capacity than their current ground, the Stadio Olimpico, but with all the modern bells and whistles one can expect Stadio della Roma to house more visitors for years to come.
Everton FC – 38,451
Our first English club in the list, the Toffees are an original founder member of the Football League and one of the oldest clubs in British football, having been founded in 1878.
As such, Everton enjoy a large following both in the UK and worldwide, and the club have plans to move to the proposed Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium in 2023. Considering the club comes close to selling out Goodison Park for every match (with a capacity of 39,572), this makes sense.
SSC Napoli – 38,475
I Partenopei have regained their fame of late, though the club that once broke the world record transfer to sign Diego Maradona in 1984 are still playing second fiddle to Juventus in Serie A.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story, as Napoli – and their fans – have overcome a lot on their journey to becoming one of the world’s most recognisable teams, including relegation, bankruptcy, and having to play in Stadio San Paolo, which is falling apart.
Beijing Guoan – 38,761
Beijing Sinobo Guoan Football Club’s nickname is the Imperial Guards, and since that’s one of the coolest nicknames in football, not much else needs to be said.
Juventus – 38,778
This number might seem low for the Old Lady, especially considering Juve just won their eighth successive Scudetto.
But when you consider that the Allianz Stadium has a capacity of only 41,507, it doesn’t seem so bad. And let’s be honest, fans of I Bianconeri have become accustomed to winning of late, so maybe some matches are just a foregone conclusion and don’t require a sell-out…
Athletic Club Bilbao – 38,974
Athletic Club have a pretty cool and unique history. The club is one of three founding members of the Primera División that have never been relegated from the top division since its inception in 1929 (the other two being Real Madrid and Barcelona).
Los Leons are also famous for their policy of only signing players native to or trained in football in the greater Basque Country of Spain.
Olympique Lyonnais – 38,995
One of the most popular clubs in France, Lyon has played second-fiddle to PSG of late, but Les Gones did win Ligue 1 in seven consecutive seasons, from 2001 to 2008.
They play at Groupama Stadium which has a capacity of 59,186 – so one might expect Lyon to be higher on this list.
Sporting CP – 39,068
Sporting Clube de Portugal – or Sporting CP as they’re more commonly known – is one of the most famous teams in Portugal. They’ve never been relegated from the top flight since they were founded in 1906.
They’ve also produced some of the most famous footballers in history, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo.
Sunderland – 39,249
Well, this is a surprise isn’t it? League One Sunderland, who suffered relegation from the Premier League and Championship in back-to-back seasons, have enjoyed a higher average attendance then footballing giants including Juventus and Roma.
Even when the Black Cats were in the Premier League the team enjoyed some of the best support in the division, but their recent struggles (including the sale of the club) has not dented the loyalty of their supporters.
CF Monterrey – 40,658
Fun fact about La Pandilla – the club is owned by FEMSA, Latin America’s largest bottling company.
And, incidentally, Monterrey has the least Liga MX titles of any team (from the northern part of the country). Coincidence? Yes.
Werder Bremen – 40, 860
Back to Europe we go, and the first team from the Bundesliga makes an appearance in Werder Bremen – also known as Die Werderaner (the River Islanders, the original Game of Thrones team).
The club have four Bundesliga titles to their name, as well as a host of German cup and European trophies in their history.
Tigres de la UANL – 41,091
Club de Fútbol Tigres de la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, possibly the longest club name in football, compete in Liga MX.
Their stadium, the 41,650 capacity Estadio Universitario, is located inside the University complex in San Nicolás de los Garza – which we think you’ll agree is pretty awesome.
Tottenham – 41,355
Spurs’ attendance figures are certain to soar over the years following the Lilywhites’ move to their brand new stadium in 2019, which has a capacity of 62,062.
Their old home, White Hart Lane, had a capacity of 36,284, but Tottenham also spent almost two full seasons playing at Wembley whilst their new ground was being built, hence the higher number for attendance.
Chelsea – 41,463
Chelsea play their football at Stamford Bridge, one of the oldest and most iconic stadiums in England.
However there is some uncertainty as to where fans of the Blues will be watching their team in the future, as the initial plans to expand Stamford Bridge have been put on hold following owner Roman Abramovich’s UK visa troubles.
AC Milan – 41,495
I Rossoneri might not be the European powerhouse (or even Italian, for that matter) they once were, but the club’s recent troubles hasn’t prevent diehard fans from flocking to the San Siro to watch their side.
However it seems that Milan are on the verge of beginning construction on a new stadium after almost 100 years at the San Siro.
Club America – 41,527
The Eagles play their football at the iconic Azteca, the seventh-largest stadium in world football.
So, combined with the fact that America is the most successful team in Mexico (with 13 league and six Copa Mexico titles to their name), it’s no surprise to see them make the top 50 – although one wonders if they shouldn’t be higher.
Hannover 96 – 41,966
No idea why Hannover 96 don’t use their full name: Hannoverscher Sportverein von 1896 – now that’s a proper football name.
Die Roten suffered relegation from the Bundesliga in 2016, but bounced back at the first attempt, and their high attendance figures proves their fans have stuck with them through thick and thin. They also have a lovely ground, nestled between plenty of trees and a river. Very picturesque.
Seattle Sounders – 42,797
The Sounders were only founded in 2007, but are already well known among most football fans.
That’s because, in addition to being one of the most successful teams in MLS and having famous players including Clint Dempsey, the club set a new MLS record for average attendance in each of its first five seasons. They also have a bloody massive NFL stadium in which to play their home games.
West Ham – 43,567
The Irons relocated to the London Stadium in 2016 after spending more than a century at the Boleyn Ground.
West Ham United is delighted to confirm that the brand-new claret pitch surround at London Stadium will be installed this coming week. pic.twitter.com/mW6Ve4rGG7
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) April 13, 2019
Despite some initial fan unrest at their new home – coupled with some dismal on-field performances – the Hammers have started to settle in at the former Olympic stadium, and it’s beginning to feel like a football ground (rather than a massive athletics venue where Usain Bolt ran really fast).
Olympique Marseille – 44,169
Marseille enjoy terrific support in France – in fact, they’re second only to PSG according to CIES – and have a storied in Ligue 1, having won the title 10 times.
Additionally, they are the first and only French club to have won the Champions League, beating AC Milan 1-0 in 1993.
Guangzhou Evergrande – 44,905
The South China Tigers are the only Chinese football club to win the AFC Champions League twice, and the first Chinese club to participate in the FIFA Club World Cup, making its first appearance in 2013.
Paris Saint-Germain – 45,912
PSG has enjoyed the highest average attendance of any French club over the last five years, coming close to almost averaging a sell-out at the 47,929-capacity Parc des Princes.
Les Parisiens are the most successful team in French history, winning a total of 37 major trophies, and have seen a huge surge in popularity since their high profile signings of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
Feyenoord – 46,314
Feyenoord is one of the most successful clubs in Holland, with 15 Eredivisie titles, 13 KNVB Cups, one European Cup and two UEFA Cups to their name. The club will also be moving into a glorious new 63,000 seater stadium by the river Maas in 2023.
They almost have as many nicknames as trophies: De club aan de Maas (The Club on the Meuse); De Stadionclub (The Stadium Club); De Trots van Zuid (The Pride of the South); De club van het volk (The Club of the People).
Inter – 46,654
I Nerazzurri get the bragging rights over their Milan rivals, since the two clubs share the same stadium (San Siro), yet Inter enjoys a higher average attendance – by more than 5,000.
With that said, Inter and Milan have each won 30 domestic trophies – though Milan won the last Scudetto prior to Juventus’ dominance. Prior to Milan’s win in 2010, Inter had finished top of Serie A for the previous five seasons.
Atletico Madrid – 47,553
Los Colchoneros are Spain’s third most successful team (in terms of league titles), with 10 La Liga triumphs to their name.
Atletico played their games at the 54,990 seat Estadio Vicente Calderón until 2017, and now call the 68,000 Wanda Metropolitano home. With Atletico’s continued domestic and European success – as well as the increased capacity of their new ground – expect to see their average attendance rise in the coming years.
Liverpool – 47,861
A one-home club, Liverpool have played at Anfield since 1892. During that span, the Reds have won five European Cups, more than any other English club, three UEFA Cups, three UEFA Super Cups, 18 League titles, seven FA Cups, and a record eight League Cups.
Despite not cracking the top 10 of this list – partially because Anfield, before its renovation and expansion in 2016, had a seating capacity of 45,276 – Liverpool still enjoy tremendous worldwide support, with more than 200 officially recognised Club of the LFC Official Supporters Clubs in at least 50 countries.
Eintracht Frankfurt – 47,942
Die Adler, despite being one of the ‘smaller’ clubs on this list – with one German championship, five DFB-Pokals and one UEFA Cup to their name – enjoys some of the best support in the world.
They’ve also had the same home since 1925, the Waldstadion, which is a name fit for Game of Thrones.
FC Köln – 48,346
The German clubs seem to be dominating this list, don’t they? And we’re not even in the top 10 yet (just wait).
I could go into the club’s honours list and all that, but would rather tell you about their nickname: Die Geißböcke (the Billy Goats).
FUN FACT: FC Cologne’s mascot is an actual goat!
His name is Hennes, he never misses a home match, and sometimes the players go over to celebrate goals with him…
— Football Super Tips (@FootySuperTips) November 23, 2017
The nickname refers to the club’s mascot, a male goat named Hennes after the veteran FC player and (later) manager Hennes Weisweiler. The current mascot is Hennes VIII – long may he reign.
Rangers – 49,054
An iconic club, we must note that the above figure for Rangers’ attendance only factors in seasons when the club was in the Scottish Premiership.
The club were infamously liquidated at the end of the 2011/12 season, gained a new corporate identity, started in the fourth tier the next season and secured promotion back to the Premiership for the start of the 2016/17 season, where they’ve remained ever since.
Hertha Berlin – 49,476
One of the founding members of the German Football Association, the Old Lady has the privilege of playing their home games in one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world.
No wonder their attendance is so high – who wouldn’t want to take in the beautiful game at the Olympiastadion?
Celtic – 49,697
When you’ve dominated the top flight of your country for what feels like forever, it’s understandable that you’ll amass a huge following.
Of course, that’s doing a disservice to the Bhoys, who were the first British team to win the European Cup – to go along with their 49 league (soon to be 50) and 38 Scottish Cup triumphs. Oh, and 40,000 Celtic fans travelled to Spain for the 2003 UEFA Cup Final. Crikey.
Ajax – 49,781
Like the mythical Greek hero that shares the same name, the Dutch giants are a legendary club, and have captivated the footballing world this season in their Champions League conquests of Real Madrid and Juventus.
Historically, Ajax have been one of the most successful clubs in the world – not just Holland. The Sons of the Gods (legendary nickname, literally) are one of only four clubs to to win the continental treble and the Intercontinental Cup or Club World Cup in the same season/calendar year, and one of only five clubs to have won all three major UEFA club competitions. Their famed academy has also produced icons of the games in Johan Cruyff, Dennis Bergkamp and Frank Rijkaard.
SL Benfica – 50,077
We’ve cracked the 50k mark! First in are the Eagles, one of the biggest clubs in Portugal.
With 81 major trophies to their name, Benfica is the most successful side in the country. The sócios, or members of Benfica, democratically elect the club president for a four-year term (three years until 2010), by voting in each candidate list, forming the highest governing body of the club. According to the club, as of December 2017, Benfica had 206,437 members.
Newcastle United – 50,721
Only three clubs in Britain have a higher average attendance than the Magpies (all of which have a bigger stadium than St. James’ Park).
The Toon Army have had it rough of late, having suffered two relegations to the Championship in the last 10 years while under the ownership of Mike Ashley (coincidence? No). Though the club hasn’t won a major trophy since the FA Cup in 1955, Newcastle enjoys some of the best support in the world.
Manchester City – 50,664
The Citizens have risen to prominence over the last decade, winning the Premier League in 2012, 2014, and in 2018, when they became the first team to attain 100 points in a single season.
City’s rise as a dominant force in world football coincides with the purchase of the club in 2008 by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and in 2018 Forbes estimated the club was the fifth most valuable in the world at $2.47 billion.
Borussia Mönchengladbach – 51,369
Back to Germany we go as we visit Die Fohlen, the fifth largest club in Germany (in terms of membership).
The Foals, who play at the 54,000 seater Borussia-Park, have won the Bundesliga five times, DFB-Pokal three times, the UEFA Cup twice, and the European Cup once.
Atlanta United – 51,547
We’re at the business end now, and a surprise entry as Atlanta United of the MLS come in at no. 10.
Actually, it’s not that surprising when you think about it, considering the Five Stripes (who were founded in 2014 and won the MLS Championship in 2018) play in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with a possible capacity of 71,000 for ‘soccer’ games. Still, the fans turn up in force, and that has to be commended.
VfB Stuttgart – 52,012
Verein für Bewegungsspiele Stuttgart 1893 e.V. (full name – amazing) were founded in, well, 1893, and are five-time Bundesliga winners (the most recent coming in 2007).
Hamburger SV – 52,349
ANOTHER German team makes the list, and one of the oldest.
Der Dino trace their origins all the way back to 1887, when its predecessor, SC Germania, was founded. HSV was the only club that had played in the top tier of German football since its founding, until they were relegated in 2018.
Arsenal FC – 59,973
Bet you thought we’d have another German team next, eh? Not to be, as the Gunners come in seventh.
Arsenal’s records and trophy haul (despite what some opposition fans may have you think) remains extensive. They hold the longest streak for playing in England’s top division, set an English record for the longest top-flight unbeaten league run at 49 games between 2003 and 2004 (the Invincibles season), are the third most valuable team in England according to Forbes, and have won a record 13 FA Cups. Not bad at all.
Schalke 04 – 61,328
Oh, another German club – what a surprise (and we’re not even finished yet).
Yes, Die Königsblauen are one of the most popular sides in football, with an estimated 1,500 fan clubs. They’ve won seven German championships, five German Cups, and one UEFA Cup. The club’s other departments include a women’s team, a basketball team, handball team, table tennis squad, blind football club, and even a eSports side.
Real Madrid – 69,822
Right, we’re in the business end now, and a giant of Europe starts our countdown of the top five.
Los Blancos, despite having a forgettable 2018/19 season, enjoy some of the best support in the world, with over 1,800 club-affiliated fan groups around the world. Heck, to even get into the 81,000 seater-Bernabeu (which will be getting an expansion and upgrade, by the way), you essentially need to be a season ticket holder (the figure is capped at 65,000), and before that you need to become a socio, or club member. Just goes to show how popular Real are, and how successful they’ve been too, with 64 domestic and 26 European and worldwide trophies in their history.
Bayern Munich – 73,781
Die Roten are the most successful club in German history, with 18 national cups and 28 league titles to their name (this could jump to 29, unless Borussia Dortmund are able to stop them).
The club has 4,433 fan groups around the world, with over 390,000 members. In addition to the 291,000 official members of the club, Bayern has the largest fan membership group around the world. And now, for (some of) their honours: 28-time German champions (record), 18-time DFB-Pokal champions (record), five-time Champions League/European Cup champions. That’s a lot of silverware.
FC Barcelona – 74,876
Barcelona, founded in 1899, has become a symbol of Catalan culture and Catalanism, hence the motto “Més que un club” (“More than a club”).
Unlike most other football clubs, the supporters own and operate Barcelona. Their trophy haul is ridiculous, and it would take an age to write, but just trust us, it’s A LOT. One stat that might surmise their success the best is the following: When Barca won their fifth Champions League trophy in 2015, Barcelona became the first European club in history to achieve the continental treble twice. Titans.
Manchester United – 75,218
The Red Devils are England’s most famous club (yes, they are), and for good reason.
They’ve won more trophies than any other English side, they were the first English side to win the continental European treble, and are the world’s most valuable football club, valued by Forbes at £3.1 billion in 2018. The club also recognises more than 200 officially recognised branches of the Manchester United Supporters Club (MUSC), in at least 24 countries.
Borussia Dortmund – 80,230
Our top spot goes to a German club – because of course it does! With 11 clubs in the top 50 of the highest average attendance, the Germans have really put the rest of us to shame.
And lead among them are BVB – who regularly fill out the 81,365-capacity Westfalenstadion. The Yellow Wall, filled with fanatical Dortmund supporters, is famed throughout football. “If you are the enemy, it crushes you but if you have her at your back as a goalkeeper, it’s a fantastic feeling,” Dortmund custodian Roman Weidenfeller once said of Die Gelbe Wand, or the Yellow Wall.
Outside of their tremendous support, Dortmund have won the German league title eight times, the DFB-Pokal four times, and also have one Champions League title to their name.