How many people watch football in europe? how many people play football in europe? What is the overlap between the two groups?
Football is very popular in Europe, a large viewership and reasonably high participation. We found that there are about 17.3 million registered players (not taking into account casual footballers), and about 548 million people who watch football in Europe. According to a worldwide Nielsen Poll, 46% of people worldwide are 'interested' in football, and 20% participate. The European country with the highest participation was the United Kingdom at 33%. Men outweigh female football fans across Europe, with the UK and France having the lowest proportion of female fans at 33%. Please see below for a deeper dive into our findings, along with an explanation of how we arrived at the numbers
NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO WATCH FOOTBALL
Firstly, we looked at attendance at the games themselves. Aggregate attendance at Premiere League games (i.e. total number of tickets sold) in the 2016/17 season was 13.62 million people, down from 13.87 million in 2015/16. The average attendance at each Premiere League in the same period was 35,838 people, down from 36,490 in 2015/16. Despite this decrease in match attendance, there has been an increase in the size of the European professional football market, up to 24.6 billion EUR in 2015/16 from 21.8 billion EUR the previous year. Premiere League games have strong attendance compared to many of the largest domestic leagues in Europe; for example the average attendance for games was 45,510 in Germany, 27,630 in Spain, 22,160 in Italy and 21,030 in France.
Secondly, we investigated TV viewership figures, which are an important financial component of football in Europe — the English Premier league takes in 2.4 billion EUR from media rights in Europe alone. As an example of typical TV audience sizes, over 110 million people in Europe watched the final match of UEFA's Euro 2016. A large percentage of the population in different countries watched games in the series, with the Wales v Portugal game in particular watched by about 33% of the Welsh population.
However, the largest amount of people who watch football is found by analyzing the viewing figures for the most recent World Cup in 2014. According to FIFA, approximately 548.1 million watched the series across Europe. Since Europe's population was 740 million people in 2014, this figure represents 74% of the European population. Therefore, we can assume that most people in Europe watch football at some point in their lives.
PEOPLE WHO PLAY FOOTBALL
To get more accurate participation data than that available in the Nielsen poll referenced above, we investigated the number of players who are registered with their national federations. It was not possible to find a specific figure for the total number of people who play football in Europe, however the European governing body UEFA released a report on women in football in 2015 which allows us to extrapolate data to gain an estimate of the total. According to UEFA, there were 1,208,558 registered female players, and they made up 7% of all registered players at all levels of the sport. Therefore, there are approximately:
1,208,558/0.07 = 17,265,114 people registered to play football in Europe, which equates to about 2.3% of the population.
PEOPLE WHO BOTH WATCH AND PLAY FOOTBALL
Unfortunately, there were no recent sources available which gave specific information about this. If we assume that most people who play football, also watch it, we can assume this number is slightly less than 17.3 million, if we do not count casual players. However, there was no data published that gave a specific percentage of footballs players who watch football. One could assume it to be relatively high though.
In conclusion, about 17.3 million people are registered to play football in Europe, and there are at least 548.1 million people who have watched football. Based on the fact that people registered to play competitive football are likely to also watch football, the number of people who both watch and play football is at least 17.3 million.