The culture which is ingrained in soccer fans and supporters is a huge part of the sports attraction. Soccer fans are renowned as some of the most passionate and vocal supporters of any sport, and soccer games attract some of the largest crowds and most incredible atmospheres on the planet. In some countries, such as Italy and the United Kingdom, there has been a perceived sterilization and decrease in atmosphere at soccer grounds, with increased TV coverage and rising ticket prices often to blame.
There is no greater recipe for a fiery atmosphere than a packed house at one of the game's largest stadiums. Whilst some claim larger stadia make it difficult to create an electric atmosphere, big stadiums such as Celtic Park, Wembley Stadium, Signal Iduna Park, the Maracana and others, all hold upwards of 60,000 fans and have homed some incredible atmospheres over the years. What qualifies as a 'big' stadium is up for debate, but the smallest ground on this list holds 25,000 spectators, whilst the largest holds 150,000.
A poor atmosphere can be put down to a number of things. How full the ground is makes a huge difference; regardless of how passionate the support is, a 50,000 seat stadium with only 10,000 people in it is unlikely to get very noisy. Similarly, even if a ground is packed to the rafters, those supporters still need to be vocal in order to create a good atmosphere. There is also the small matter of stadium acoustics and the like. Here are the top 15 big soccer stadiums with poor atmospheres:
15 Allianz Arena - Bayern Munich
There may be an air of surprise by some that a Bundesliga stadium makes this list, especially the stadium of the Bundesliga and German soccer's greatest team, Bayern Munich. While it is true that the atmospheres in the Bundesliga are now some of the best in the world, the atmosphere at the Allianz Arena is often less than spectacular. There is a great sense of expectation at the ground, such is Bayern's dominance in Germany, that anything less than a convincing win is met with boos and/or disgruntled sighs. They can still create a fine atmosphere for big occasions, but generally speaking, Bayern have one of the worst atmospheres in the Bundesliga.
14 Old Trafford - Manchester United
One of the game's most distinctive stadia, Old Trafford has become known as the 'Theatre of Dreams' after the great success of its tenants Manchester United over the years. At 75,635, Old Trafford has the largest capacity of any club stadium in England, and it is regularly full. The problem for the Red Devils is that for such a big ground, they only really have one vocal stand, the Stretford End. This means that more often than not the stadium is dead, with only a few rounds of 'United, United' to be heard raining down from the stands, and the 2,500 away fans almost always more vocal than the home support.
13 BMO Field - Toronto FC/Canadian National Team
BMO Field is the largest soccer-specific stadium in Canada, with a 30,991 capacity. When Toronto FC were founded in 2006, they had one of the best followings in the MLS., selling out their first three seasons. Despite the numbers, Toronto fans were never regarded as the most vocal, and after their early bumper crowds, poor on-field performances meant even they began to drop. Lower ticket prices and a number of marquee signings saw the numbers return, but the atmosphere at BMO Field is still lacking.
12 Stadio Friuli - Udinese
Serie A and the 'Ultras' of Italian soccer are renowned as some of the most noisy and passionate supporters in the worlds game. However, average attendances in the league last season were 22,000, a staggering drop in crowds when the league average around 30,000 in the early 2000s. The second oldest club in Italy, Udinese have a long and proud history, but their recent attendances have been nothing short of appalling. Udinese's Stadio Fruli has a maximum capacity of 41,652, although that has more recently been capped at 30,642. The club averaged just over 9,000 fans a game last season, and the atmosphere at the once buzzing Stadio Friuli was rather subdued.
11 Stamford Bridge - Chelsea
Chelsea supporters were so quiet last season that Jose Mourinho even criticized them in the national media. The Portuguese manager was quoted as saying "It's difficult for us to play at home though, because here is like playing in an empty stadium." Mourinho went on to describe the Chelsea fans as "frustrating". Stamford Bridge has had a reputation as one of the Premier League's least intimidating grounds for some time now, and there seems to be little the club can do to turn it around. Even the comfortable Premier League title win last year didn't see an improvement among the noise levels at the 41,798 capacity ground.
10 Stadium mk - MK Dons
Milton Keynes Dons, or MK Dons, are one of the most eminently detested clubs in English soccer. In a country where clubs are steeped in history and tradition, MK Dons felt they were within their rights to harness another teams history despite moving to another city, changing their strip and almost every other recognizable element of a soccer team. MK Dons crowds have been poor ever since the move. They sold only 1,700 season tickets in their first season in 2004-05, regularly taking less than 100 fans to away games. The club have been playing at the 30,500 capacity Stadium mk since 2007, despite averaging only 9,000 supporters a game. The atmosphere at Stadium mk is dreadful.
9 Allianz Riviera - OGC Nice
The Allianz Riviera is a great looking new-build stadium located in Nice, and is rather like a slightly scaled down version of the Allianz Arena in Munich. Opened in September 2013 and built at a cost of over $275 million, the stadium can hold 35,624 spectators. The stadium holds almost double that of Nice's old ground, the Stade Municipal du Ray, and OGC Nice have struggled with the increase in capacity. The club average around 18,000 fans a game, which was the capacity of their former stadium. Already renowned as some of French soccer's quieter supporters, the rather empty Allianz Riviera has next to no atmosphere for the majority of Nice's games.
8 Santiago Bernabeu - Real Madrid
If the only time you see the Santiago Bernabeu is one Real Madrid play in El Classico or a big European tie, you could be forgiven for thinking that Los Blancos had fantastic support. FIFA's Club of the Twentieth Century, Real had as many as 15,000 empty seats at times last season, and averaged 12,000 less than their capacity of 81,044. For most league games not against the likes of Barcelona of Atletico Madrid, the Bernabeu is often quiet, and their supporters are very quick to get on the players' backs. The likes of Casillas, Gareth Bale and even Cristiano Ronaldo have been booed by the home fans at the Bernabeu in recent seasons, showing how fickle they can be.
7 The Emirates - Arsenal
Arsenal fans often find themselves on the receiving end of mockery from English soccer fans. Their previous ground was nicknamed the 'Highbury Library' by a great many supporters of opposing clubs, and Highbury probably had a better atmosphere than Arsenal's new ground, the Emirates. The Emirates is a fine build, arguably the best soccer stadium in Britain, especially for its very reasonable construction cost. The simple problem is; Arsenal fans aren't very noisy. Even away from home, the Gunners support lacks volume, and for this reason, the 60,260 capacity Emirates stadium is always likely to be one of the Premier League's quietest grounds, despite being regularly packed.
6 Toyota Stadium - Nagoya Grampus
Hosting a World Cup can have many positive impacts upon a country, but it can also lead to some problems. One of which, is that expensively built large stadiums, may not be located in regions where the support for soccer is such that they can be consistently filled. A number of the stadiums constructed in Japan and South Korea for the 2002 World Cup have had this problem, but none more so than the Toyota Stadium. Based in the Japanese city of Toyota, where several of Toyota's manufacturing plants are located, the stadium plays host to Nagoya Grampus, who are based in Nagoya, rather than Toyota, making the stadium wildly impractical for supporters. Despite a 45,000 capacity, Nagoya Grampus average only 16,000 supporters a game, making the Toyota Stadium seem very empty indeed.
5 The Darlington Arena - Darlington
The Darlington Arena was always a stupid idea. Built by a crook who originally named it after himself ('The Reynolds Arena'), the stadium was far too big for a club of Darlington's stature and the build eventually put the club out of business. Darlington is a town of 97,000 people, the club has never had a large fan base and has never been a big club. Their previous ground with a capacity of 8,500 was almost never filled and was more than big enough, yet Reynolds built the 25,000 capacity Darlington Arena at a cost of $35 million. The stadium had crowds as low as 1,300 at times, never hitting over 11,000 and averaging around 2,000, which made the atmosphere unsurprisingly terrible.
The club went bust in 2012 because of the ground cost and reformed as 'Darlington 1883' and now play in a 2,004 capacity ground.
4 Stade de la Meinau - RC Strasbourg Alsace
In a region of over 1.8 million people, one might expect Alsace to boast a half decent soccer team. Sadly, their fortune has been dictated by the precarious nature of the region itself, with the club having switched nationalities, and as such, leagues, on three occasions. The club has a golden era in the late 1970s, even winning Ligue 1 in 1979, but after financial meltdown, they were recently relegated to the fifth tier of French soccer, and are now in the third tier. Their home since 1914 is the 29,230 capacity Stade de la Meinau, but the club's attendances average only 6,355, making the ground seem empty and almost silent.
3 International Stadium Yokohama - Yokohama F. Marinos
The second Japanese stadium to make this list, the International Stadium Yokohama has one of the most dead atmospheres in world soccer. The colossal ground holds an impressive 72,327 people, and while it was full for the 2002 World Cup final between Germany and Brazil, it has struggled to get anywhere near that number since. Yokohama average 23,000 spectators a game, meaning that the stadium is running at less than a third of capacity. Furthermore, there is a large racetrack around the pitch. It is well-known that the closer the fans are to the pitch at soccer games, the better the atmosphere, and there are few grounds where you're further away than the International Stadium.
2 Ricoh Arena - Coventry City
The Ricoh Arena is without doubt one of the strangest experiences I have ever had at a soccer stadium. Although its official capacity is 32,609, it somehow feels even bigger when you cast your eyes upon the rows and rows of empty seats at every match day. It is not hyperbolic to say that you can literally hear someone shout from the opposite end of the ground, such is the silence of the Ricoh Arena. The club averaged just 2,300 spectators a game in the 2013-14 season, which was up to 9,000 last season, but still less than a third of the capacity, the Ricoh is undoubtedly the worst atmosphere in English soccer.
1 Rungrado May Day Stadium - North Korean National Team
The Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang is the largest soccer stadium on the planet, with an official capacity of 150,000. For the yearly 'Mass Games', they manage to cram 250,000 into the stadium, with 100,000 people performing on the pitch while the standard 150,000 spectators look on from the stands. Although the stadium is usually full for North Korea's soccer matches, it would appear fan culture and the idea of synchronized chants are yet to reach the isolated nation. Even with 150,000 fans in attendance, the ground remains literally silent throughout much of the match. It is a quite surreal sight and unlike any other soccer stadium outside of North Korea. The Rungrado May Day Stadium isn't the only large stadium in the country, in fact, North Korea has eight soccer stadiums with a capacity of 30,000 or higher.