Austria's Bundesliga experienced an upsurge in interest last season as average crowds reached a record of 8,000 – a trend set to continue with UEFA EURO 2008™ drawing ever closer.
Top-flight football seems to be as popular as ever with a number of clubs recording significant increases in their average attendances. The 2006/07 campaign brought 1,442,065 through the turnstiles at Bundesliga games and officials expect this total to rise with UEFA European Championship euphoria sweeping the nation.
The most successful club in Austrian history, 31-times champions SK Rapid Wien, are one of the sides cashing in on the boom. Crowds at Rapid’s Gerhard Hanappi Stadium have recently reached 15,000, way above the 5,300 average of three years ago, and early indications are showing that the 2007/08 season could even usurp the upsurge in popularity witnessed last campaign.
SK Sturm Graz’s crowds have grown by 138 per cent in the early stages of the season to over 11,000, while supporters have been flocking to SK Austria Kärnten’s Wörthersee Stadion, newly constructed for UEFA EURO 2008™. Home fixtures have been attracting attendances of over 20,000 with the last home match against Rapid, a 2-1 defeat on 6 October, witnessed by 20,800. “I am delighted that the boom of last season is still continuing,” said the head of the Bundesliga board Georg Pangl.
However the positive news is not being repeated everywhere, as reigning champions FC Salzburg have been discovering. The failure of Giovanni Trapattoni’s side to reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in the last two years, when they were beaten by Valencia CF and FC Shakhtar Donetsk respectively, has seen their gates drop by almost 3,000 since 2005/06.
FC Wacker Tirol are also experiencing a downturn in supporter numbers, their cause not helped by their position at the foot of the league table. Crowds have fallen by almost a third to just over 4,000 but President Gerd Stocker is hoping that the club’s Stadion Tivoli NEU, refurbished for the European Championships, which reopened on 17 October for Austria's friendly with the Ivory coast will entice back the fans. “We will continue our sporting build-up and sooner or later the people will come to the ground again,” he said. “The European Championship will create a special atmosphere.”
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