Supporters returned to English football in their droves at the weekend as the 2021/22 Sky Bet EFL season kicked-off with over 382,000 fans passing through the turnstiles of EFL Clubs.
Following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, excitement reached fever pitch across the Championship, League One and League Two as people took back favoured positions on the terraces and in seats after nearly 18 months away.
The highest attendance of the 2021/22 opening weekend came at the Stadium of Light, where over 31,000 watched Sunderland AFC record a 2-1 victory against Wigan Athletic.
In total, the opening weekend fixtures in Sky Bet League One amounted to a divisional-high over the past six years, as more than 134,000 supporters cheered on their teams, surpassing the benchmark of 116,444 set in 2018/19.
Ipswich Town v Morecambe (21,037), Bolton Wanderers v MK Dons (16,087) and Charlton Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday (17,639) made it four fixtures out of 12 in League One to welcome over 16,000 supporters.
Elsewhere, Sheffield United’s return to the Championship attracted a crowd of just over 29,000 at Bramall Lane, with Birmingham City claiming an opening day three points, whilst Coventry’s return to the City was watched on by just under 21,000 against Nottingham Forest.
In Sky Bet League Two, Tranmere Rovers hosted over 7,700 supporters against Walsall, and both Carlisle United and Mansfield Town surpassed the 6,000 mark against Colchester United and Bristol Rovers, respectively.
In the last season to be completed in full before the pandemic, attendances across the EFL reached their highest levels in 60 years in 2018/19, as 18.3 million people made their way to League fixtures.
The EFL’s #ForTheGameWeLove campaign will run through the 2021/22 season across the League and Clubs to support a return to pre-pandemic level of attendances.
EFL Chief Executive, Trevor Birch said: “It was great to see full crowds return to EFL stadia across the country this weekend, and we must thank each and every one of those fans for not only their attendance but also their patience and commitment throughout what has been an extremely challenging period over the last eighteen months.
“To see the range of emotions on the faces of supporters and hear the fantastic noise from the stands is something we have all dearly missed and those fans who were not able to travel to the away game, will get the chance to attend a home game and experience the thrill of live football once again this weekend.
“The past few days have demonstrated that fans were ready to return, football was ready to welcome them back and long may that continue.”
The action continues this week, with 34 fixtures in the Carabao Cup across Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 August, before a full schedule of Sky Bet EFL fixtures next weekend.