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It's beneficial both to the players and fans to find an optimal game-day.

Saturday games attract a significantly higher attendance at football matches

SHARE YOUR SCIENCE: After the end of Covid-19 restrictions football authorities should consider having a larger share of games on Saturdays.

Starting from 2009, the first season with 16 teams in the Norwegian professional football league “Eliteserien”, and up to 2019, the last season that was not affected by COVID-19, stadium attendance has dropped by roughly 35 percent. Even when adjusting the numbers to the size of the stadiums, which have also changed over the years, the attendance as a share of the stadium capacity has dropped by about 12 percentage points.

Revenues are decreasing

Given that TV broadcasts generate only 17 percent of total revenue (according to the 2018 UEFA club licensing benchmarking report), Elitserien still depends on game-day revenue (gate receipts). The game-day revenue share of the income was only 15 percent in 2018, reductions of roughly 16 percent and 29 percent compared to 2017 and 2015, respectively.

For comparison, in other countries with larger aggregate revenues, but lower share of TV broadcast than in Norway, the gate receipts generate a much larger share. For example, in the Netherlands, the TV broadcast and gate receipts generate 15 percent and 29 percent of the total revenue, respectively. The respective numbers in Scotland are 10 percent and 43 percent, in Switzerland 9 percent and 31 percent, and in Sweden, they are 12 percent and 24 percent.

Saturday better than Sunday

In a recent study, conducted by Stepan Ermakov and Alex Krumer from Molde University College, the authors were motivated by the relatively late kick-off time of Sunday games (more than 80 percent of the Sunday games in Eliteserien had a kick-off time of 18:00 or later), which is the main game-day in Eliteserien.

Given such a late hour, their study follows the study of Alex Krumer, who has shown that Thursday games in the UEFA Europa League that start at 19:00 attract a larger audience than games that kick off at 21:05. One possible reason for that is that the following day (Friday) is a working day. Thus, Ermakov and Krumer investigated whether Saturday games in Eliteserien attract a higher audience than Sunday games because of the late kick-off time on Sunday, which may not be convenient for many fans who start their workweeks on Monday morning or have young children.

The authors used all the games from 11 seasons between 2009 and 2019 and controlled for more than 30 confounding factors, which can be roughly grouped into the following categories: economic/demographic, geographic, team-related, game-related, and TV broadcast of different leagues. The regression analyses show that, on average, Saturday games attract 4.9 percent higher attendance than Sunday games.

Benefits for players, fans and business

Thus, it is worthwhile for the Norwegian football authorities to consider having a larger share of games on Saturdays after the end of Covid-19 restrictions. Beyond the general increase in attendance and in gate receipts, this change may also increase the attendance of young fans, whose support is important for long-run perspectives. In addition, such a move may benefit football players who can spend more time with their families on Sundays.

Finally, having more games on Saturdays may have a positive effect on local business since fans are more likely to attend local restaurants after games on Saturday than on Sunday evening after 20:00.

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