The numbers are in and if one thing can be said about Euroleague 2009-10 this early on, it’s that this association is hardly free of the specter of economic woes. After Partizan and Alba Berlin set attendance records in 2008-09, this season has heretofore seen a most remarkable downturn in paying fandom with Lottomatica Roma and possibly Efes Pilsen appearing to be the only teams with a chance to record decent growth for the season.
Attendance rates for week four games were reported as the following, though perhaps slight adjustment is needed in some cases with regard to actual *people showing up at the arena* (more on this in a moment).
Lietuvos Rytas vs. Partizan: 8500 reported in attendance
Olympiacos vs. Efes Pilsen: 7200
Roma vs. Maccabi: 5745
Orleans vs. Unicaja: 5000
Oldenburg vs. Real: 4104
Prokom vs. Panathinaikos: 4100
Barcelona vs. Asvel: 4021
Cibona vs. Zalgiris: 2500
CSKA vs. Olimpija: 2500
AJ Milano vs. Khimki: 2059
Maroussi – Caja Laboral: 2050
Fenerbahce vs. Siena: 1000
While most of these numbers seem legit, empirical evidence questions some of the figures reported this season. BC Maroussi reported attendance of 1,650 and 1,700 for its games against CSKA Moscow and Roma (representing capacity of 8.73% and 9% in its venue seating 18,900), though many observers have stated fewer than 1,000 went to these games. For just a small taste of this debate, the argument at Interbasket’s forums may be visited (and/or fueled) here.
With the actual basis for counting “attendance” not set in stone, though, one does have to wonder. Having watched week four’s Cibona-Zalgiris, wellllllllllllllll, i suppose you could imagine 2,500 people were there, or that lots (lots!) of folks showed up to catch the first half of the third quarter.
And even if the Roma-Maccabi game sold 5,700-plus tickets while the venue has been a relative success in Euroleague in drawing fans, the depressing 42% average capacity would seem to dwarf the home-crowd impact in such a massive venue.
In terms of sheer capacity rates, the numbers are as follows. Number in parentheses indicates average attendance; an asterisk denotes just one game played at the given home stadium.
1. Maccabi Tel Aviv, 100% (11,000)
2. Baskonia, 96.97% (9,600)*
3. Zalgiris Kaunas, 95% (4,750)
4. Asvel Basket, 94.93% (5,357)
5. Olimpija, 87.5% (5,250)
6. Partizan Belgrade, 80.08% (5,605)
7. Unicaja, 80% (8,400)
8. Khimki Moscow, 75.10% (3,950)
9. Entente Orleanaise, 73.38% (5,064)
10. Lietuvos Rytas, 70.45% (7,750)
11. EWE Baskets Oldenburg, 69.09% (3,489)
12. Montepaschi Siena, 69.64% (4,892)*
13. Asseco Prokom, 64.87% (3,567)
14. Efes Pilsen, 64% (8,000)*
15. Cibona Zagreb, 62.04% (3,350)
16. Real Madrid, 61% (9,150)
17. Panathinaikos, 52.91% (10,000)*
18. FC Barcelona, 51.88% (4,280)
19. CSKA Moscow, 45.45% (2,500)
20. Lottomatica Roma, 42.05% (4,710)
21. Olympiacos, 41.75% (6,200)
22. AJ Milano, 14.83% (1,780)
23. Maroussi BC, 9.52% (1,800)
24. Fenerbahce Ülker, 8% (1,000)
Of the repeat Euroleague contenders, the percentage change in attendance looks like the following:
1. Efes Pilsen +73.91%
2. Lottomatica Roma +24.36%
3. Olimpija +20.97%
4. Asseco Prokom +16.97%
5. Real Madrid +8.45%
6. Baskonia +6.84%
7. Montepaschi Siena +3.32%
8. Maccabi Tel Aviv +0.58%
9. Panathinaikos -2.08%
10. Zalgiris Kaunas -2.7%
11. Unicaja -5.54%
12. FC Barcelona -17.31%
13. Olympiacos -19.90%
14. Cibona Zagreb -32.66%
15. CSKA Moscow -34.64%
16. Partizan Belgrade -34.95%
17. AJ Milano -41.66%
18. Fenerbahce Ulker -76.94%
Perhaps when considered in this light, the overall attendance dropoff – currently at 6.28% — isn’t quite so generally disastrous and a few reasons might be attributed to problems at the bottom 10 listed above. Poor play might be keeping the relatively cash-strapped at home (looking in the direction of Milano and Zagreb here) in some cases, whilst surely some juggernauts (Barcelona, Olympiacos) will see better numbers as Euroleague play heads down the stretch.
There may even be a positive spin on this in the short term: After all, when the Asvels and Orleanaises are drawing twice as many as, say, CSKA Moscow, won’t the playing field be leveled somewhat in favor of the smaller-market teams? And won’t the Italian teams dreading next year’s cutback in non-European players have their woes eased in the knowledge that fellow suffering Euroleague teams (and even Serie A squads) might be less willing to plunk down euros for top-drawer American talent?
In the immediate-term future, however, certainly much hand-wringing is going on in front offices all over Europe right about now. We fans can settle back to ponder a couple of philosophical questions: 1. Does this mean Euroleague tickets might actually drop in price? and 2. If a team competes for the Euroleague championship and no one is there to see it, does it make a sound?