FA Cup Final Becomes Most Watched Football Match of the Season

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
A record audience tuned in to see Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang drop the FA Cup trophy | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Chelsea's 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the 2020 FA Cup final attracted the largest viewing figures for any football match this season.

Professional football was suspended in England in mid-March following the coronavirus pandemic and returned in June. However, all games since the sport's resumption have been held behind closed doors, devoid of fans.

Reece James, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal and Chelsea played the first ever FA Cup final held behind closed doors | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Arsenal prevailed over London rivals Chelsea in a 2-1 win on Saturday in a Wembley Stadium which has a maximum capacity of 90,000. Aside from a limited number of journalists and broadcasters, the two Premier League sides played out the final of the world's oldest cup competition in front of empty stands.

With supporters unable to be at the ground, fans were forced to cheer on their teams watching from home. The final was available on free-to-air BBC and the subscription channel BT Sport in England.

According to the BBC, their coverage of the match was watched by a peak audience of 8.2m across all platforms. This represents a 46.1% audience share and surpasses the 7.2m who tuned in for the semi-final clash between Manchester United and Chelsea as the largest viewership for a football match in the 2019/20 season.

Tammy Abraham, Harry Maguire
Chelsea defeated Manchester United 3-1 in the semi-final watched by 7.2m viewers | Pool/Getty Images

The eight most-watched games of this campaign were shown on the BBC, and the top seven were FA Cup ties. The remaining fixture from that top eight marked a moment of broadcasting history.

In the unprecedented circumstances football found itself after a three-month hiatus, every Premier League game was scheduled to be broadcast live in England. The BBC aired four top-flight games for the first time since the competition's inception in 1992, and their third fixture broke another viewing record.

Southampton's surprise 1-0 win over Manchester City on 5 July attracted a peak audience of 5.7m, becoming the most-watched Premier League match in the history of the competition according to the BBC.