There are certainly some exciting fixtures in football that are highly anticipated all around the world by millions of fans. Even those who can’t get to the stadium and are fans from afar will tune in to watch on television, while some might just be generic football fans who look forward to a particular fixture.
Of course, some of the most eagerly anticipated football fixtures are derby games, often because there is a lot at stake for both of the clubs involved and historically they have always been tempestuous and eventful with a highly charged atmosphere.
Because these are usually the games that are favoured by many the world over, we have analysed some of the most watched football derby games below!
Perhaps not the one you were expecting to see from Italy, this is still actually very big and involved two giants of European football. Juventus and Inter Milan participate in a rivalry that spans decades.
Indeed, in Serie A, out of 184 matches played, Juventus have won 88, drawn 43 and lost just 49, clearly coming out on top, at least as far as the league is concerned.
Due to Italian football having notable interest globally, this is a fixture that understandably attracts considerable audience viewing figures. It is understood that in 2021, the Derby d’Italia was shown in over 200 countries, that included the Maldives and Kazakhstan, with 650 million viewers tuning in to watch the game.
Essentially between two of the biggest clubs in Germany; Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, this is actually one fixture that does attract a global television audience and much foreign media interest, due to the size of the respective clubs.
Regardless of which stadium that the fixture is played in, there is always a highly charged atmosphere, particularly in front of Dortmund’s iconic ‘Yellow Wall’.
Due to the rise of Dortmund over the last decade, this derby has become even more competitive which has ultimately attracted even larger audiences. It is understood that Bayern’s 4-2 victory over Dortmund in March 2023 saw 1.99 million viewers tune into Sky, which was deemed a respectable, given the channel’s high subscription fee.
Meanwhile, a further 2.15 million tuned into the free streaming service ZDF to enjoy the game, indicating that these figures were well above usual ratings.
A fiery fixture if ever there was one, with little done to fan the flames over the years. The San Siro has played host to this game for decades, with both clubs ground-sharing the iconic stadium. When both sets of fans come together it is not a spectacle for the faint of heart.
In 2021, it was revealed that the fixture between both clubs in the February of that season reached a record high for viewing figures. As a result, according to DAZN, it saw 2.2 million people tune into the subscription-based broadcaster to watch the match between AC Milan and Inter Milan.
This was also a considerable increase from 1.6 million (38 per cent), from when both of the clubs met in September 2019.
A fixture steeped in history and English football heritage, this game between Liverpool and Manchester United has witnessed some iconic battles over the years. One of the most watched games in the world and two of the most widely supported clubs on multiple continents, this understandably attracts a global television audience.
Every match is always a sell-out, tickets for this go in the blink of an eye, often within one hour of release, while touts will generally command upwards of £2000 for a ticket.
Meanwhile, for the clash in January 2021, data has revealed that this fixture yielded the Sky Sports’ biggest ever television audience, with an average 4.5 million people tuning in, despite this ending in a 0-0 draw. However, during the last five minutes, this figure rose to 4.8 million as both sides pushed for a winner in what was a dramatic and highly-charged game at Anfield.
Around the world, it is normal for this game to pull in television audiences of at least 250 million in more than 200 countries.
This does have an element of politics about it – Real Madrid, essentially being the King’s club and Atletico Madrid – the club of the people, the latter with more working class connotations, it has always been a highly charged atmosphere.
Over the last decade, ‘Atleti’ have essentially seen their stock rise, after winning La Liga and multiple Europa League titles, which has seen them close the talent gap between the two clubs. As a result, over the years, this fixture has attracted an even higher television audience around the world.
Arguably the biggest game between the two clubs in recent history was the 2013 Champions League final, which saw three million viewers tune into FOX and ESPN Deportes, which was actually a decrease of 19 per cent on the previous year’s final between Barcelona and Juventus.
The ‘Old Firm Derby’
Played between the two biggest clubs in Scotland, there is a lot more to this game than just football. It has considerably significant religious and political connotations as well. Scotland’s second city, Glasgow is divided between Rangers and Celtic (blue and green) and on ‘derby day’ the place grinds to a halt.
Over the years, this has always been watched with interest the world over, with many foreigners often playing both of these two sides, while tensions always, invariably run high, both on and off the pitch, attracting high viewing figures.
Indeed, the fixture in 2021 signified somewhat of a landmark achievement with a record television audience tuning into Sky Sports to watch the match.
Gary Hughes, Head of Football at Sky Sports, revealed: “Sky Sports is delighted that over 1.4m viewers watched one of world football’s greatest rivalries between Celtic and Rangers. Viewing of the SPFL has risen 8% on last season, and 47% on the 2017/18 campaign, showing the appetite our customers have for Scottish football.
“We very much look forward to bringing viewers all the best matches, including every Old Firm game, as the season reaches its climax. All this ahead of Sky Sports becoming the exclusive home of the SPFL from the 2020/21 season.”
Meanwhile, Neil Doncaster, SPFL Chief Executive also added at the time: “The record viewing figures for the December Celtic vs Rangers match is fantastic news and highlights the increasing interest in Scottish football, not only within Scotland but across the whole of the UK and around the globe.
“The SPFL continues to deliver the passion, drama and excitement that Scottish football has long been renowned for. We look forward to building upon this as we extend our new, long-term agreement with Sky Sports starting from season 2020/21.”
Over the last decade, due to Manchester City’s rise in dominance, and certainly since manager Pep Guardiola took over as manager, the Manchester Derby, which also involves fierce rivals Manchester United has become one of the most eagerly anticipated and, most watched in England.
However, it also appears that the US has seen a notable rise in viewing figures. In January 2022, it was found that the game between Manchester City and Manchester United broke the record for viewing figures in the US, averaging 1.76 million viewers across NBC, Telemundo and NBC Digital.
Meanwhile, between 2010 and 2020, this fixture in 2011/12 ranked as third highest for Sky Sports viewing figures, with an average of 4.05 million viewers, peaking at 4.30 million.
Another massive English derby, this often flies under the radar, however, it has a steep history. A fixture that again, divides a city and even families for a day, this sees Liverpool take on Everton in often fiery conditions.
Indeed, this was recorded as the most watched Premier League derby between 2010 and 2020, when an average of 4.96 million viewers tuned in to watch the match for the 2019/20 season, peaking at 5.50 million, which ended in a goalless draw.
Arguably one of the most iconic ‘derbies’ in the world, it does not strictly fall into the category of a ‘derby’ due to both teams being in entirely separate areas of the country.
However, due to both clubs being the biggest in Spain and backed by the government, this has turned into one of the fiercest and most entertaining fixtures in the world over the last two decades.
Indeed, for many years, these two clubs could easily have been thought of as the best two clubs in world football, which provided a significant amount of entertainment.
It is estimated that over 700 million tune into watch this worldwide, especially when you account for Spanish-speaking South American countries, where there is a major interest in the Brazilian and Argentinian players that have played (and still do) for both sides over the years.
Pitting Sporting Lisbon against the city’s other top club Benfica, this is the biggest derby in Portugal and one of the most watched in the country. While FC Porto, for many years dominated Portuguese football, Benfica have witnessed a recent resurgence, while Sporting Lisbon won the league in the 2020/21 season.
In 2021, it was reported in local media that the fixture between Benfica and Sporting Lisbon reached 673,000 people in the country.