The Netherlands is a small, densely populated, highly urbanised and football mad country. Football plays a massive part on the lives of ordinary Dutch people but are there some cities and towns in the country that love football more than others? This is the question that Rogier Waalder looks to answer using the following metrics when comparing cities/towns of the Netherlands and their football lovingness.
- Number of pro and semi-pro teams. This is limited to top 3 divisions (Eredivisie, Eerste Divisie, TopKlasse) due to regionalised nature of anything further down the pyramid;
- Total number of season-ticket holders both as a total number and as a percentage of a city/town’s population;
- Average attendance as a total number but also as a percentage of a city/town’s population
- Average attendance as a percentage of stadium capacity
The top 5 results for each metric are as follows:
Teams per city/town in the Top 3 divisions of Dutch Football
Total Number of Season Ticket Holders per city (for main club located within)
Number of Season Ticket Holders in Proportion to Town/City Population (for main club located within)
Total Average Attendance for Main Club in Town/City
Average Attendance for Main Club in Town/City as a Percentage of Total Population
Average Attendance for Main Club in Town/City as a Percentage of Stadium Capacity
So let’s take a look at what this all means and who the contenders are for the title of Best Football City in the Netherlands.
Firstly let’s have a look at those cities that could be awarded the ‘Worst Football City’! There are major cities such as Amersfoort, Haarlem and Apeldoorn that don’t have professional football teams but that’s not necessarily a reflection of the football lovingness of its citizens. No, the joint mantle of Worst Football City in the Netherlands goes to Den Haag and Utrecht. These two cities are the lowest in the categories of Average Attendance per Population, Season Ticket Holders per Population and Average Attendance by Stadium Capacity (ie they have the emptiest stadia in the land). Den Haag and Utrecht are the third and fourth most populous cities in the Netherlands but also have higher than average incomes amongst its citizens and perhaps this explains the reluctance to support their teams.
So taking out Utrecht and Den Haag the other two big cities in the Netherlands fare very well when it comes to their football loving prowess. Certainly the Dutch city that most people relate to is Amsterdam, and not only do its citizens enjoy art, music, weed and sex but they also enjoy football, or more specifically Ajax. Amsterdammers have the largest average attendance and most season ticket holders for a football club in the land as well as almost packing out a 52,000 seat stadium every second week. Amsterdam also has four clubs in the top three divisions, although three of these clubs are related to Ajax. Amsterdam is also notionally home to the Oranje and most big matches are played in the city and when the national team does well the canals of Amsterdam are a sea of orange. There’s no doubt about it that Amsterdam is a proper football city.
Amsterdam’s traditional rival in all aspects of Dutch life is Rotterdam and Holland’s second largest city is also a mad keen football city. Its working class reputation resonates well with the simplistic roots of football and it’s no surprise that Rotterdam has more professional teams (Feyenoord, Sparta & Excelsior) than any other Dutch city. The main stadium in the city, De Kuip, is legendary in Dutch football circles but although it’s almost the same size as the Amsterdam Arena, the Rotterdammers do not fill De Kuip to the same extent. Rotterdam and Amsterdam do have the same amount of season ticket holders as a percentage of total population whilst Rotterdam’s average football attendances also shade Amsterdam’s as a percentage of total population. The Dutch National Team also plays in the city.
Not only are the big cities in the Netherlands football crazy but the provincial cities are as well and none more so than Eindhoven. This industrial city, renowned for being the home of the Philips Corporation is the fifth largest city in the country but has 2 professional teams (PSV and FC Eindhoven). It is also the smallest city to host a UEFA Cup Final since neutral venues were introduced for the Final. On the pitch its main club, PSV, is more than a match for the big Amsterdam and Rotterdam sides, but it’s in the stands where this city trumps its bigger rivals. Eindhovenaars support their teams in bigger numbers, proportionate to its population, than both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, from both a season ticket and average attendance metric. In fact over 12% of the city’s 220,000 residents are season ticket holders at PSV. So outside of the big cities football is alive and kicking and the next few cities are further evidence of this fact.
Enschede is a small city out near the German border that is home to 150,000 residents and although it only has 1 professional team that team is none other than FC Twente. Twente is the name of the region that Enschede is in and in part the team belongs more to the region than the city, but nonetheless the passion of the Enschedeers when it comes to football is tremendous. When comparing average attendance and season ticket holders, as a percentage of the city’s population, Enschede sits 2nd in the nation on both fronts. The average attendance of FC Twente (29,456) equates to a whopping 18.5% of the city’s population. It’s fair to say that FC Twente’s rise over the past decade has certainly helped whip up football passion in the city. Its small neighbour Almelo is also well represented and wins the mantle of packing out their stadium the most of any other Dutch city. Average attendance at the Polman Stadium for Heracles matches equates to 98% of the stadium’s capacity.
Before we move on to arguably the best football city/town in the Netherlands there are also a few other worthy contenders. Alkmaar, home of AZ, has a population of just over 90,000 but has double-digit percentages for season ticket holders and average attendance by population. Even some of the smaller cities in the Netherlands are very passionate about football and a classic example of this is Spakenburg. Spakenburg is a small town of 19,000 people but is home to 2 of the most successful amateur sides in the land, Ijsselmeervogels and SV Spakenburg. When these 2 sides meet the attendance at the stadium equates to almost half the town’s population. If we take a look away from supporting football to playing football then surely the small town of Groesbeek needs to be mentioned. This small rural town of 17,000 people has no fewer than 6 football clubs, with 2 of these in the top 3 divisions.
When looking at the best football city in the Netherlands the places mentioned above are very worthy candidates, but there is only one clear winner and that is Heerenveen. Heerenveen is so small that it’s not technically a city and with 28,000 residents it’s only the 4 largest city in the Province of Friesland. What Heerenveen lacks in terms of number of residents it more than makes up in football passion and specifically its support for SC Heerenveen. The numbers are astounding! The average attendance of the club (22,700) equates to 80% of the town’s population. This figure is equivalent to Ajax having an average home attendance of 650,000! Furthermore the number of season ticket holders for SC Heerenveen also comes out as being 50% of the town’s population and in fact the club’s stadium could almost fit the entire town if completely full. There are many and varied reasons on why Heerenveeners love their football side so much, which will be explored in future articles, but one thing is clear that Heerenveen wins the title of The Best Football City in the Netherlands.
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3 thoughts on “What is the Netherlands’ ‘Best Football City’?”
Nice study but I think that your assumption that all season ticket holders are inhabitants of the particular city is wrong. Especially Ajax and PSV have a lot of ticket holders from out of town.
Thank you Theo for your nice words – I considered the fact that teams will have season ticket holders from out of town but I figured that this levels out amongst the top clubs ie there are lots of PSV supporters in Amsterdam and equally as many Ajax supporters in Eindhoven.
There’s no way to get accurate information of where all season ticket holders from a particular club are from so i broadly speculated that as a general rule people will be season ticket holders of a club because a) they love the club and b) they identify with the city ie they were born there, there parents were born there, they worked there for a bit and hence they feel an attraction towards the city and therefore help to promote the football passion of that city.
I know some people who love Ajax because they are from Amsterdam and being a season ticket holder allows them to go to Amsterdam everyother week so therefore Amsterdam has a footballing culture that allows out of towners to want to be a part of it.
Glad you enjoyed the article!