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Fans flood back as UEFA club competitions begin season in style

A combined crowd of around 2.5 million attended the opening games of UEFA's three men's club competitions over the past two weeks, including nearly 1.5 million for the first 32 UEFA Champions League games.

Safe standing helped to swell a huge crowd at Borussia Dortmund
Safe standing helped to swell a huge crowd at Borussia Dortmund Getty Images

The opening nights of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League brought fans flooding back to the continent’s stadiums, with over 2.5 million supporters attending games on Matchdays 1 and 2 across the three competitions.

To mark the start the first season largely unaffected by COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic hit Europe in early 2020, fans of all the teams in action turned out in force, with two German clubs reaching significant benchmarks.

Highlights: Dortmund 3-0 Copenhagen

The best part of 71,000 came out to watch Edin Terzić’s Borussia Dortmund side secure an impressive 3-0 first-night win against Copenhagen. BVB's European home games usually have crowds of around 66,000, with the introduction of safe standing in UEFA matches this season helping to boost that figure and make the Yellow Wall even more impressive.

On Matchday 2, it was Bayern München's turn to make a breakthrough. Julian Nagelsmann's side secured an eye-catching 2-0 win against a Barcelona side featuring their former marksman Robert Lewandowski, but more significantly did so in front of a club-record European crowd of 75,000 thanks to extra space for standing fans.

In total, the 32 Champions League games of Matchdays 1 and 2 drew a combined crowd of just under 1.5 million (an extremely healthy average of over 45,700 per game) – an increase of more than 60% compared to the opening nights of the 2021/22 campaign (just over 900,000). That figure represented a dramatic achievement in itself, given that COVID restrictions had meant that an aggregate crowd of just over 80,000 were permitted to attend the first 32 games of the 2020/21 edition.

The 2022/23 attendance figures have also been impressive in the two Thursday competitions. A 74,000+ turnout for Manchester United’s 1-0 home loss to Real Sociedad helped bring the combined Europa League total up to around 700,000 (an average of just over 22,500 per game, with Arsenal yet to play at home), while close to 375,000 attended the Europa Conference League matches.

Among the teams in action in the Europa Conference League were clubs from three nations playing for the first time at this level: Ballkani (Kosovo), Vaduz (Liechtenstein) and Žalgiris Vilnius (Lithuania), their participation helping to increase the visibility of football in their respective countries.

The key message: European football is back in no uncertain terms after the pandemic. With four more matchdays to be played between now and the start of November, the action will again come thick and fast after the international window.