Institute of Sports Science

Substitution effects in lower division football attendance

22.02.2018 – Historically, most of the top division games in European football were scheduled either Saturdays or Sundays, leaving the rest of the week exclusively for lower division games. During recent years, however, top divisions have decided to spread the schedule across an increasing number of days per week, to reduce the number of concurrent games within the first (and second) divisions, and reallocate kick-off times to prime time TV slots in lucrative markets abroad, in order to increase media right revenues by boosting airtime and media coverage. Consequently, the number of top division games that temporally overlap with lower division games has increased significantly during recent years.

Compensation payments for lower division clubs are subject to heated debates between top and lower division club and league managers for several years now. The major argument brought forward in these discussions is the expected threat that concurrent top division games reduce gate attendance because consumers have to choose between parallel games and might prefer attending (or watching on TV) top division games instead of lower division games.

In a recent research project, Tim Wallrafen and Tim Pawlowski (both University of Tübingen) as well as Christian Deutscher (Bielefeld University) analyse attendance data of around 6,000 games in Germany’s fourth division (Regionalliga). Results reveal that overlapping games might indeed reduce the demand for lower division games, suggesting some negative spillovers of commercialization processes in European professional football.

The research paper was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Sports Economics.

Wallrafen, T., Pawlowski, T., & Deutscher, C. (2018). Substitution in sports: the case of lower division football attendance. Journal of Sports Economics,