Thursday, 29 November 2007

Italian attendances

Curiously enough the football rivalry in Sheffield appears to be heavily focused on the issue of average attendances. Not only do both sets of fans disparagingly refer to the others as Piggies - which is deeply confusing - but they make almost the same jibes at one another. Wednesday fans love to cite the (intermittent) very low attendance figures of their rivals, while United fans love to, er, cite the (intermittent) very low attendance figures of their rivals. Wednesday also derive a feeling of innate superiority from the fact that United were created to fill an empty ground rather than springing up organically. Other clubs to which that applies are Liverpool and Chelsea, so they may have a point. The Piggies thing, incidentally, is that apparently the Blades' red and white stripes look like bacon while the Owls' blue and white stripes look like a butcher's apron. Neither side seems troubled by the complete inapplicability of the simile.

Anyway the debate on attendances here in Italy, while perhaps not quite so crucial as that in Sheffield, still forms a major part of what we used to be able to call fan banter before the term became misspelled and appropriated in a cringemaking fashion elsewhere in the meeja. An upset Lazio fan has popped up on here before in high dudgeon to correct my apparent misapprehensions about the relative average attendances of the capital's teams. Meanwhile, how can you not laugh at Juve who within the last five years have seen a crowd of less than 500 turn up for a cup game? And funnily enough, English fans asking me questions about Serie A sides nearly always ask about attendance figures.

With all that in mind I am more than delighted to share with you this very beautiful and informative map, kindly sent to me by the talented Bill of which gives an at-a-glance guide to Italian attendances in the 2006-7 season. The size of the crest reflects the average attendance, in a fairly self-explanatory fashion. If you click on the image you will be able to see a larger version.

Rather brilliantly this does not limit itself to Serie A but includes B and the top C1 clubs also. Enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Extremely cool map; ursus minor wants one to put on his wall (and not only because Inter are on top).

In related news, the Gazzetta has been wringing its hands all week at the relatively miserable attendances for Italian clubs in the group stages of the Champions League, with special attention being paid to the massive difference between Italy and England.

The fact that Man United outdrew Inter by more than 50,000 people on Tuesday night is a pretty striking statistic.

ursus arctos said...

That was me, btw. Not sure why my name didn't appear.

Richard said...

I think the bad press Serie A gets in Britain is largely due to the poor attendances. I looked into this a couple of months ago, and found a website showing Serie A attendances from the late 80s/early 90s. They were dramatically higher. At the time, of course, British attendances were fairly low.

I'm not sure why Serie A crowds have declined so much. Italian clubs are as successful as ever in Europe. The national team are world champions. Ticket prices are low. The league is competitive.

Sure, there's the violence - but hasn't that always been there? Has it got much worse in recent years? In 1984, Liverpool fans - no angels themselves - were reportedly stunned by the ferocity of the Roma ultras at the European Cup final. And this was at the height - or nadir - of football violence in Britain.

So why have the crowds declined so badly?

TrentToffee said...

Lovely maps :0)

I thought I'd make a comparison with a local team, and gosh don't little old Derby County punch above their weight (32,172) ?

ursus arctos said...

There is an excellent collection of Italian attendance data here:

Why the decline?

The media here tends to focus on the violence, but I think richard is right in suggesting that other factors are at play.

From where I sit (Section 219 of the Meazza), those include:

1) "Calcio Moderno", particularly Sky. For generations, football in Italy was something that happened on Sunday afternoons at 15h00, after the traditional Sunday lunch with extended family. People who didn't go to the ground listened to RAI's multiplex "Tutto il Calcio Minuto per Minuto" on the radio. Everybody watched the highlights on RAI's "90 Minuto" in the early evening. A remarkable percentage of the population played the Totocalcio football pools (and the results of those pools led 90 Minuto, following frequent updates on the multiplex).

All of that changed with pay tv. Only six matches are played at the traditional time, and fans of the more popular clubs tend to suffer disproportionally. I haven't done the statistics, but I would estimate that close to half of last season's home matches were at a time under than Sunday afternoon.

RAI lost the rights to the highlights and 90 Minuto is a shadow of its old self. Totocalcio has lost out to a host of other forms of betting, and itself suffers from matches being played at different times. Sky not only allows the obsessive to watch all the matches in live multiplex, but also broadcasts multiple games each week from England, Spain, Germany and France; the explosion in the volume of televised football is probably even more striking than it has been in the UK over the same period.

The radio mulitiplex still exists, but all of the other developments have shaken the once central place of "going to the football" in the larger context of Italian culture.

2) Prices. Though they are still cheap by British standards, prices have increased rather sharply since the "Golden Age" following the 82 World Cup win. I think of our season tickets as being a relative bargain compared to prices in Britain or the US, but the people who sit near us and still think in Lire find them expensive, and wonder if they aren't ways to economise in this age of obsession with "carovita". As in the rest of Europe, the industrial working class has been hit particularly hard, and the impact on that sector of the traditional fan base has been accentuated by the conversion of Italian grounds to a form of all seater (even if people don't sit in the curvae, the seats on the side of the ground have been used to support price increases).

The fact that less than 20 percent of Inter's season ticket holders took up the packages for the Champions League group stages is a good illustration of the effect this can have (and the CL itself has to some extent cannibalised league attendances).

3) Star Quality: in the Golden Age, fans in the Northeast could watch the likes of Zico at Udinese or Preben Elkaer at Verona. Now, Udinese's major draw is Quagliarella, who was unknown a year ago, and Hellas are in C1. The Big Three are still full of household names, but the talent is much more concentrated than it was. That doesn't make it only less compelling for fans in Udine to get a season ticket for the Friuli, it also makes the "lesser" teams less of a draw when they come to visit the bigger clubs.

4) Other options: Sunday shopping, more accesible travel, greater interest in "active recreation", increased ownership of "weekend" houses; all of these have had some impact on the numbers.

martinobhoy said...

Spangly Princess - Is this league matches only or does it include all matches because they do look very low.

Or can I indulge in a bit of cross-national bragging and say our average attendance is about the same as Fiorentina and Roma combined :o)

Spangly Princess said...

As so often, Ursus' excellent and balanced reply leaves me little to say. I would add that perhaps rather than violence driving people away - since there is certainly no more than in the 80s and very likely much less - there is perhaps a media perception of violence. People are perhaps put off by what they are being told is happening rather than what it actually happening.

Martino - those are just league attendances, if the Coppa Italia was included it would pull everyone's average right down. Feel free to have a smug Celtic moment, it's not often that Scottish football triumphs over Italian football ;-)

Richard said...

Very interested to read your reply, Ursos. I think points 1) and 2) would also apply to Britain and Spain, where attendances have actually increased. Maybe point 3) is the biggie.

I always remember David Platt signing for Bari in 1990. I'd never heard of Bari, yet here was the English top flight's top scorer, and a star of England's World Cup team, leaving Aston Villa - European Cup holders a decade earlier, and the biggest team in England's second city - for an obscure club in a small town at the unfashionable end of Italy that had spent much of its life in Serie B.

I suppose those days are long gone. But I still don't understand why the Italian league was so wealthy in comparison to England or Spain - and isn't anymore.

Here's hoping Serie A regains its place as il piu bello campionato del mondo.

Spangly Princess said...

one problem is that via Mediaset or Sky you can legitimately watch every single game live on Italian TV. Including those few 15.00 on Sunday kick-offs. Whereas in the UK that's not the case.

So it's now possible to be a full-time armchair fan and never miss a match.

Richard said...

I suspect this is a daft comment, but how can you watch more than gave live simultaneously?

egan said...

That's a very good summary of rivalry in the city, all the better for leaving out 'their' claim that Hillsborough is sited on a former pig farm.

In truth, both clubs have quite poor records when we're not around each other in the league, whereas at the moment fans are trying to prove that they are 'more loyal' than the 'pigs'.

In the late 80s, when we were in the top flight and they were in the fourth division, both clubs averaged between 10k-20k, depending on the style of play, cup runs and so on.

I think the thing is now that a very high percentage of fans go regularly, whereas before that wasn't necessary. The Hillsborough derby is unlikely to sell out, for instance. It became a habit for us when we were selling out in the early 90s and for them when they had their hilarious season in the sun last year. I doubt that will ever be a factor in Italian stadia holding 50,000 plus.

ursus arctos said...

On Sky, you can actually get eight matches on a single screen at once, though you only have sound for one. I think that anyone who does that for 90 minutes would go rather mad, though (in addition to missing most of the relevant detail of what is actually going on).

The other alternative is a visual multiplex, which moves from match to match in an attempt to capture "exciting incidents". You are also alerted to goals in each of the other matches, and can call those up by pressing a button on your remote (the same procedure for switching among matches).

Spangly Princess said...

Egan, glad to hvae not misled too badly, considering my non-Sheffield-ness. I only ever mad it to Hillsborough once, but the former Prince Spangly was a Wednesdayite.

thanks also for demonstrating the truth of my observation by being ubale to resist commentating on your respective attendances. I still don't know why they are so fascinating to Sheffielders, though. I mean, Liverpool & Everton don't bang on about attendance all the time.

egan said...

We've got nothing else to bang on about, really. Liverpool and Everton are vastly more successful than the Sheffield clubs. Liverpool isn't geographically divided like Sheffield is, so you don't get the feeling of shock when you see the 'wrong' shirt in a certain area. When one team is more succesful it does happen more, though. United moved their academy into Shiregreen a couple of years back, and had to lay on minibus transport from the city centre because their young players were getting hassled at bus stops.

Another (semi) interesting point (to dullards) is that attendances in South Yorkshire as a whole are pretty amazing when you consider the number of clubs and lack of success. Barnsley are averaging 10,000, Doncaster 7,000, Rotherham 4,000, Wednesday 20,000 and United 24,000.

That's 65,000 people out of a population of 1.2m regularly watching awful football, which I love to point out when people describe anywhere else in the UK as a 'hotbed of football'.

ursus arctos said...

Getting back to richard's question, Spangles' point about the media perception of violence is to me a very important one that has repercussions well beyond football.

Much of the media here have discovered that the "if it bleeds, it leads" concept beloved of local television news in the US to be equally effective in Italy. This is particularly true of free and small circulation newspapers and local television, but it also is very much in the case in outlets owned or supported by a certain former Prime Minister, who has found such sensationalism to be politically expedient.

The current demonisation of the ultra movement fits into this more general sense of (a significant portion of) the media creating a sense of palpable fear in the "good" segment of the population (particularly people of a certain age). Personally, I believe that there are both political and economic reasons for the trend (gore and fear does sell papers), but its existence was underscored by a poll earlier this week that found that one Italian in nine now has a gun "to protect themselves".

As to why the likes of Platt ended up in Bari, a good number of Italian clubs had significant money to spend since the 50s because they tended to be owned by "baron"-type figures who were major players on an international (originally Agnelli at Juve, Moratti pere at Inter, Pirelli at Milan) or local (the likes of the Matereses at Bari) scale. Those barons were also very good at getting significant benefits from the public fisc, starting with their grounds, which left more money for players. They were also very experienced in "tax minimisation" techniques, which is why image rights, offshore holdings and other "creative" means of compensation were often pioneered and/or perfected in Italy (positive relations with the public authorities helped here as well, of course).

Add to that the economic situation in Britain in the mid-80s (when foreigners were first re-allowed in Italy) and the fact that Spain was going through a difficult political transition (and had a league less open to foreigners for cultural reasons and with more wealth concentrated in fewer clubs), and you have the underpinnings of the phenomenon. The fact that smaller clubs got to participate was largely due to the limit of the number of foreigners per club to two (and then three), which meant that the big clubs couldn't hoard overseas talent in the way they usually did with local players. The tangible results of that are apparent in clubs like Napoli, Hellas Verona and Sampdoria all wining their first (and only) scudetti during that period.

As to why it didn't last, all of those competitive advantages have weakened or disappeared over time, and the preponderence of television and Champions League income in clubs' budgets has been particularly hard on the smaller clubs, who simply don't have access to anything like what the big clubs get. It was much easier for them to compete when the primary driver was bums on seats and how deep the baron's pockets were.

The question of why "calcio moderno" seems to have possibly increased attendances in Britain and Spain while decreasing them in Italy is an interesting one, and one to which I don't have an easy answer, but one aspect that I think is very important is that there was never a "Sky effect" of making football "cool" here. Football already was cool, and the people who cared about the game were pissed off by the television-inspired changes (especially in the early years, when no single system had all of the matches), rather than turned on by better production values and razmattaz. The state of the grounds also is important here, because they simply are not conducive to the heavy corporate and relatively well off fans (including women and families) that have fueled much of the boom in Britain (and perhaps to a lesser extent in Spain).

But by now I'm rambling.

Chelsea boy said...

Can i just point out that I made the perception of violence point first to Spangles over the breakfast table?

Yay for me.

Spangly Princess said...

look, CB, if you keep on like this, between you & Ursus I might as well shut up shop altogether. *stern frown*

Richard said...

Ursus, Spangles - thanks for your interesting replies.

I think to some extent these things are cyclical, and I'm sure Serie A's time will come again. It was a shame Italy lost out on the Euros to Ukraine/Poland, though - that might have resulted in the stadiums being tarted up, which seems to have been one factor in the boom years around Italia '90.

ursus arctos said...

That's a classic Italian dilemma when it comes to the renovation and maintenance of public works.

In the absence of external funding (usually from the EU), or a special event (such as a major football championship, Olympics, World's Fair, etc.), there is rarely the political will to allocate funds for such endeavors, and the clubs aren't willing to pay too much for improvements that they don't own.

It was particularly problematic in the case of Euro 2012, since virtually every public official in the country was certain that Italy was going to get it (and remained highly confident even after Calciopoli broke), and therefore even less inclined to use general funds for those purposes until new funds were made available in the context of the competition.

It is also why Juve are trying to fund the reconstruction of the Delle Alpi on their own, and why Inter and Milan have been fairly seriously considering their own facilities for several years (most often based on a scenario in which Inter would move to a new ground and Milan would rebuild the Meazza).

nicklazio1900 said...

I am the one who complained about your comments on Lazio's attendance and after some quick calculations thanks to the link kindly provided by ursus actos, it turns out that the club's average attendance since its return to the Serie A in 1988 through to the end of last season is 41,420 whereas Roma's is 50,005...

Spangly Princess said...

Ciao Nick bentornato. glad to see I didn't manage to terminally offend you, even Laziali are welcome here ;-)

I actually went along to see your lot last weekend, which was weird, and have recently been forced by circumstance to add a Lazio tag to my site.

nicklazio1900 said...

> Ciao Nick bentornato. glad
> to see I didn't manage to
> terminally offend you,
> even Laziali are welcome here ;-)

Thank you and I wasn't offended.
I am just a little sensitive about certain Roma v. Lazio stereotypes.

The fascist/racist thing is another one, especially when the comments come from the red and yellow side of the city...

> I actually went along to see your
> lot last weekend, which was weird

These are not happy times at Lazio, and this predates the whole Sandri affair. The tifoseria is angry, divided over everything and going to games is as depressing as going to a funeral - no tasteless pun intended.

Spangly Princess said...

to be honest with you, I have never heard any giallorosso comments on the fascist problem at lazio, we are all very well aware of our own problems in that regard. If you look back at some old posts from 18 months ago or so I did a couple outlining the situation with the far right at Roma.

in fact, the Lazio-as-Fascist thing seems to be a wholly English one. Not least since most outsiders have no idea at all of how deeply embedded the extreme right is into so many tifoserie and so many areas of Italian life.

ursus arctos said...

It isn't just an English thing, the "Lazio are a fascist club" meme is well established in Germany, France, Spain and other continental countries as well, and has been at least since the time of the Arkan banner.

Compelling visuals like that, the Di Canio salutes and the Irriducibili's periodic displays of Celtic Crosses and Duce flags are enough to keep the stereotype alive, and much easier targets for the foreign media, who generally can't be bothered to try to figure out the intracacies of the situation.

nicklazio1900 said...

I agree that unfortunately this isn't a problem just in England, actually I think that it's much worse in France.

Why are Lazio's exploits, so to speak, more "compelling" than Roma's though? They have put up banners, celtic crosses and swastikas as well. I have my theory on this, but I was wondering what others thought.