The World Cup effect appears to have rubbed off on the Russian Premier League, which saw a 71 percent spike in attendance this week following the country’s hosting of the global football tournament.
Russia spent an estimated $3.4 billion on constructing nine new stadiums from scratch and renovating three others for the World Cup. The high maintenance costs of the new stadiums has fueled speculation that smaller cities may struggle to maintain the infrastructure without sell-out crowds.
The first matchday of the Russian Premier League’s (RPL) new season, which kicked off with eight games last weekend, set an attendance record of 169,600 fans, the league said in a press release Tuesday, with an average of 21,200 fans per match.
Last year, the same eight games were attended by less than 100,000 fans.
High stadium attendance was also observed at games in Russia’s second-division, the Football National League (FNL), with venues in World Cup host cities including Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod and Kaliningrad averaging almost 20,000 fans.
Saransk, Russia’s smallest host city, saw 26,000 people attend a second-division game two days after the World Cup final.
Here is a selection of Instagram posts from the new season.
Mordovia Arena, Saransk
July 17. Mordovia vs. Nizhny Novgorod (FNL: second division)
Spartak Stadium, Moscow
July 17. Spartak vs. Orenburg (RPL: first division)
Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don
July 28. Rostov vs. Terek (RPL: first division)
Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
July 22. Rotor vs. Luch (FNL: second division)