football stadium from above

How Many People Can Fit Inside a Football Stadium?

No matter the event, stadiums and arenas are designed to pack as many people through their doors as is desired. However, the amount of space afforded to spectators in these stadiums is restricted by strict safety regulation, ensuring that there is no dangerous overcrowding.

But what if no such safety restrictions exist? In other words, what happens if you try to cram as many people into a football stadium as physically possible, without any regards for safety or regulatory compliance?

It’s a tricky question to answer – not least because it depends which type of stadium is being used, and which type of football you’re referring to. However, by using some of the biggest stadiums in the world as an example, we can at least hazard a guess at how many people you could fit inside a stadium.

In order to do that, let’s start by exploring the highest number of people that are legally allowed to enter a football stadium currently.


How many people are football stadiums allowed to let in?

As stadiums come in all shapes and sizes, there is no one set capacity figure that their architects or designers need to adhere to. It really depends on the specific circumstances of the stadium in question – namely, what spectator demand there is, whether a high capacity is financially viable, and if there is sufficient supporting infrastructure to deal with the number of fans.

So how do the highest capacity stadiums look in practice? The world’s largest football stadium is the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, which boasts a staggering capacity of 114,000 people.

Meanwhile, Michigan Stadium in the United States accommodates up to 107,601 fervent fans for American football and association football fixtures. Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, follows closely with a capacity of 99,354, making it a true European giant, with the stadium currently undergoing a redevelopment to push capacity above 105,000.

So, currently, it’s rare that stadiums let in more than 100,000 people. But, as mentioned, this is due to a variety of practical factors and not necessarily indicative of how many people could fit in a stadium theoretically.

To get closer to this figure, let’s explore some occasions where the biggest stadiums have been filled at or even beyond their intended capacity.

What is the stadium with the highest ever attendance?

Throughout the history of sports like football, some of the biggest games have attracted some of the most monumental crowds. And while ticketing systems in modern seated stadiums are now typically built to carefully monitor crowd flow, there have been times in the past when spectator attendance has extended well past the capacity limit.

The highest ever ‘official’ attendances for football stadiums are as follows.

  • Brazil vs. Uruguay, World Cup Final 1950: 199,854 (approx) at Maracana.
  • Scotland vs. England, Home International 1937: 149,547 at Hampden Park, a record for UK and Europe.
  • Celtic vs. Aberdeen, Scottish Cup Final 1937: 147,365 fans witnessed Celtic’s 2-1 victory.
  • Celtic vs. Leeds, European Cup Semi-Final 1970: 136,505 at Hampden Park, which was shifted due to demand.
  • Bolton vs. West Ham, FA Cup Final 1923: 126,047 at Wembley’s debut. Otherwise known as the ‘White Horse’ final.

But, while revealing, this isn’t the full story of football’s highest ever attendance. It’s worth noting that many older stadiums have experienced overcrowding for big events due to comparatively low security and crowd monitoring by today’s standards.

So, in actuality, these crowd figures may be much higher. The Bolton vs West Ham FA Cup final, for instance, was thought to have been witnessed by up to 300,000 people, which is almost 175,000 more than the official attendance.

In this way, it’s clear that stadiums built in a certain manner could quite easily fit in far more spectators than they originally accounted for.

This being said, knowing the highest number of people ever to spectate in a football stadium doesn’t take into one key factor: the playing field. With the exception of concerts and other non-sporting events (in which the stage position usually reduces seat capacity), this area is free from spectators.

When considering how many people can fit into a stadium in total, this extra yardage may make all the difference. For this, we need to bring maths into the equation…


How many people could fit into a football stadium’s playing field?

Now we know how many people can realistically fit into a large football stadium’s spectator areas, it’s time to calculate how many people would be added if the playing field was full to the brim as well.

To do this, we’ll measure each person standing on the field as if they were standing in a 3 foot by 3 foot square. We’ll also split up the calculation for different types of football. 

American Football

American football fields, spanning 300’×150′, would theoretically be able to host around 3,750 attendees per field.

Canadian Football

Canadian football fields, measuring 330’×195′, would have the capacity to house approximately 5,400 people per field.

Australian Rules Football

Australian rules football fields, with their elliptical shape of around 607’×508′, have the potential to welcome 40,364 fans per field.

Association Football

Association football (soccer) fields, measuring 361’×246′, may provide seating for approximately 14,801 people per field.

Now let’s put all of this together.


How many people could fit into a football stadium altogether?

In total, the amount of people that can fit into a football stadium is theoretically unlimited, as the size of a stadium could be as big as structurally viable. However, by combining the amount of people that could theoretically stand on a football field and the biggest crowd ever recorded at a football fixture, these figures are a realistic answer to the question:

  • American Football: 303,750
  • Canadian Football: 305,400
  • Australian Rules Football: 340,364
  • Association Football: 314,801

That’s it for our guide to our assessment of how many people could fit into a football stadium. While no-one’s ever likely to test out the answer in practice, it’s nevertheless interesting to explore the potential of the stadiums we know and love.

Want to find out more about the world of live venues? If so, explore our selection of stadium and sports arena articles, featuring our informative guide to why Madison Square Garden is called a Garden.

Or, if you’d like more definitions on building and architecture vocabulary, take a look at our selection of building wikis. For instance, discover more about what a kop is here.

Last Updated on 26 August 2023 by Michael