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Post by Scottish » Sun Feb 01, 2015 1:45 am

With an average of 21,155, France is 7th in the world (only seven leagues have 20,000+ averages) and 5th in Europe, lying behind the rest of the “Big Five,” India and Mexico. France has long been perceived to be the least well supported of the powerful Western and Southern European countries but it is a titan compared to what it once was. Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s when football in the UK hit attendance levels never seen before or since (though the English Premiership has come close), average attendances in France were below 10,000. And for several seasons in the late 1960s and early 1970s there was no Parisian team in the top flight, a situation unthinkable for the capital cities of England, Italy and Spain.

On more than one occasion Marseilles and Lyons lingered in the second level for several seasons and failure to qualify for the World Cups of 1970 and 1974 saw France drift towards irrelevancy both at club and international level.

It seems unthinkable now when we expect the French international team to be contenders in international competition, for their clubs to be respected throughout Europe and for Ligue 1 to be recognised as one of the strongest and most competitive in world football that it wasn’t all that long ago it was regarded as a weak league in a weak country.

Good attendances are also spread more evenly throughout France than in most countries. It has twenty-four clubs with five-figure averages, the same number as Spain, and with only England and Germany ahead of that.

It must be borne in mind that France, in common with several other countries, has rivals to football for sporting affections. French top division rugby union is watched by an average of 13,600 and by 4,937 in the second level. That’s without factoring in European competitions which take up a large part of the rugby season and which draw big crowds in France. As a footnote the Catalan Dragons RL team average between 8,000-10,000 per match.

Those high rugby attendance figures – especially in Languedoc-Roussillon – obviously impact on football attendances in a manner which doesn’t happen in Spain or Germany say, or even, despite its participation in the Six Nations, Italy, where top division rugby crowds average under 1,000.

French attendance figures must be reckoned to be among the most accurate in the world. Some clubs pass on details on the evening of the game played but the French League’s Stadium Service confirms the overwhelming majority. Last season’s highest was 48,960 – a figure which was smashed twice in the same week this season when Marseilles drew 61,846 for their match with Toulouse and Lens (their own ground was at that time unavailable as it was being redeveloped for Euro 2016) played their home fixture against PSG at the Stade de France in front of 70,785. That latter provided a rare instance of away fans turning up in numbers as obviously the venue was to their liking. 15,586 PSG fans were in attendance. Usually a good away turnout means 1,000 though it’s normally much less than that and often below 100. Like Spain, the distances involved in travelling don’t encourage following your team away from home.

PSG were the best supported team last season and 23rd in the world rankings. Lowest Ligue 1 crowd was 5,534 and that was on Corsica. In continental France, Monaco excepted, it’s rare to see any crowd under 10,000.

The league itself is straightforward. Twenty clubs playing each other twice for a total of thirty-eight games each and 380 for the season. There are no play-offs at either end. The top clubs take their European positions as allotted by UEFA (with the exception of Cup winners/finalists, same as elsewhere). Hence cup winners Guingamp, who avoided relegation by two points, entered the Europa League at a further stage than St Etienne who finished two points shy of a Champions League place. There were only four teams below Guingamp and three of them went straight down.

The French League has an excellent website which does MORE than it says on the tin For a start it’s automatically in English and for another it covers Ligue 2 as well. The original French version is here

45420 Paris St Germain
38662 Lille
38129 Olympique Marseille
34414 Olympique Lyons
30595 St Etienne
28169 Nantes
24186 OGC Nice
19523 Stade Rennes
18833 Girondins Bordeaux
15558 Stade de Reims
15160 Lorient
15001 Guingamp
14994 Toulouse
14679 Montpellier Hérault
14388 Soichaux-Montbéllard
14354 Valenciennes
13647 SC Bastia
10919 Evian Thonon Gaillard
8906 AS Monaco
6297 Ajaccio

Ligue 2 is – or should be – straightforward with the same number of teams and format as the top flight. The top three go up and the bottom three down and that should be that. However, last season, French football’s financial authority, the DNCG ruled that Lens should not be promoted on grounds of financial irregularities and also for not having a suitable stadium. As the latter was being redeveloped for Euro 2016 they could scarcely be blamed for that. Eventually Lens won the day and went up. But at the other end the DNCG’s decision to debar US Luzenac from promotion (population 650, stadium capacity 1,600) caused the break-up of the team, their voluntary demotion four further levels down the pyramid and saved third last Ligue 2 team Chateauroux from the drop.

Attendances at this level are excellent. With an average of 7,916 they were fourth best in the world, behind only Germany, England and Argentina. Much of that was down to Lens and this season so far they are running a lot lower at just over 5,500 – still a substantial figure but one which would see Ligue 2 only just retain top ten status.

Highest last season was 40,740 and the lowest 627. Lens were the fourth best supported non-top flight team in the world. Only Cologne, Rangers and Fortuna Dusseldorf were ahead of them.

31016 RC Lens
14678 Nancy-Lorraine
13915 Metz
10794 Stade Malherbe Caen
10029 Troyes
8272 Dijon
8263 Angers
7609 Stade Brestois 29
7519 Le Havre
6156 Tours
5733 Olympique Nimes
5659 Chateauroux
5639 Auxerre
5550 Stade Lavallois
5075 Chamois Niortais
3828 Clermont Foot
2603 US Créteil-Lusitanos
2329 Istres
2177 Arles Avignon
1460 CA Bastia

Keeping up the tradition of grandly titled third tiers is the French National Championship, which is under the auspices of the national federation, not the league. The average last season was 2,107 with a high of 20,703 and a low of 200. US Luzenac, as noted above, were one of the sensations of the season, finishing second of the eighteen clubs, three of which go up (or should do) and the bottom four should all be automatically relegated to the regional levels below. Luzenac didn’t just scrape promotion either. They were thirteen points clear of fourth and only missed out on the title by two points. Nor were they the worst supported, with six teams recording lower averages.

DNCG involvement scuppered their promotion hopes and the official body’s interventions elsewhere saved third and fourth bottom from the drop. One of the teams thus helped was Racing Strasbourg, whose fall from grace was compounded by liquidation and a restart in the fifth tier and whose reboot has stalled at the third level

10289 Racing Strasbourg
5538 Amiens SC
2548 US Orleans
2327 Vannes OC
2022 SR Colmar
1666 US Boulogne
1660 Le Poire-sur-Vie
1543 Red Star
1435 Gazalec Ajaccio
1415 USL Dunkerque
1397 Bourg-Peronnas
1132 US Luzenac
1109 Vendée Lucon
1097 Carquefou JA
1012 Frejus-St.Raphael
625 US Colomiers
594 ES Uzés Pont du Gard
511 Paris FC

The pyramid starts below this level. I have no further attendance details.

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