Pop quiz: Which team do you think draws more fans to their homes games – the team at the top of the standings, or the team at the bottom of standings?
The answer is last place Paris.
Les Rouges Eiffels have an average attendance of 22,242 per game this season, which is tops in the league and 34 fans per game more than the Bern Bears draw. So there goes the theory that you have to win to put fans in the seats. And the associated theory about winning teams drawing bigger crowds takes an equally hard punch to gut when you look at Bratislava, the league’s second best team that is 2 points from first overall and riding a 10-game win streak. The Eagles have the very worst average attendance in the league at just 11,227 people per game.
So if the team’s record doesn’t affect attendance, what does? The truth is there are many factors, like ticket prices, the local economy, marketing, and the roster’s star power, to name a few. The size of the arena and the cost of tickets have a huge affect on the amount of money a team can generate from a home game.
Let’s use Bratislava as an example. The Eagles draw fewer fans than any other city in the league, but there are eight teams who earn less revenue per game. That’s because Bratislava management, the greedy bastards, have jacked up ticket prices* so high there is only one team in the league charging their fans more to see a game. We’ll get to that team in the next paragraph. Bratislava elected not to increase the size of its arena much and it has a maximum seating capacity of 14,500, which means it has been filled to 77.43 percent of capacity for the average Eagles game this season. The average capacity of a EURO League arena is 17,931. So Bratislava makes up a little for its poor attendance with high ticket prices. Management has said it will experiment with ticket prices this season, lower them a few dollars for several games at a time to see how that affects revenue.
The poor Greek consumer wishes Athens would do a similar experiment. His country’s financial mess has been well documented for years now. The Greek consumer is paying exorbitant prices for all goods because of rising costs of raw materials, transportation, fuel and taxes. So who in Europe do you think pays the most to watch a hockey game? That’s exactly right; Athens fans do. Four teams are getting at least $60 per attending hockey fan this year. Those teams are, in descending order, Athens, Bratislava, Bern and Helsinki. At the other end of the scale, four teams are asking for less than $40 per game from fans, listed from the bottom up: Edinburgh, Munich, London and Stockholm.
The number that counts most to owners is the average income per game. A combination of winning hockey, a big arena, high attendance and high prices has Bern way out in front in that category. The Bears earn more than double what Edinburgh, Munich, London, Stockholm, Dublin, Geneva, Milan and Zurich earn per game.
*the closest we can get to the average ticket price is dividing the revenue raised per game by the number of tickets sold. So concessions and parking are added into this figure, and it’s not actually the average of what management is charging, but rather the average of what those fans who are attending are paying. A slightly different thing.