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American gridiron fans keep faith through the downturn


By Nick Harris

4 January 2010

New figures collated by following last night’s conclusion to the NFL’s 2009 regular season show that the world’s best-attended domestic sports league (by average crowd) has registered only a slight dip in numbers.

The average number of people at the 256 regular season games was 67,509, or just a fraction more than 1 per cent down on 2008, when 68,241 people per game set an all-time NFL record. The 2009 numbers still represent the fourth best season in NFL history, bettered only by 2008 and the two years before that.

Highlights of the NFL regular season in crowd terms included the NFL regular season record attendance of 105,121 at the Dallas Cowboys versus the New York Giants in September at the Cowboys new stadium. Refreshingly, that venue is called, erm, Cowboys Stadium.

Major League Baseball suffered a rather more alarming year-on-year slump in 2009, with average crowds falling from 32,539 people per game in 2008 to 30,338 in 2009, a fall of 6.67 per cent. NBA basketball and NHL hockey crowds were both slightly up.

In other sports, football crowds have been known to rise in times of depression, with the ordinary working man (and his lad) taking solace during tough times in their team. Certainly in Germany in 2008-09, the recession did nothing to dampen enthusiasm for top-flight football: the Bundesliga had its best ever year in attendances per game. Serie A in Italy was up, year-on-year, while there were slight dips in England and Spain.

The average attendance figures for the most recent completed seasons in the world’s most popular domestic sports leagues have been collated in a special feature. The most successful domestic leagues, in order of best average gates, are the NFL, the Bundesliga, the AFL (Aussie Rules football), the Premier League, the MLB, the Canadian Football League, La Liga, NPB (Japanese baseball), Serie A, and the IPL (cricket).

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