Nottingham Panthers beat Sheffield Steelers in the stands...if not on the ice.

Sheffield Arena on match night
Sheffield Arena on match night

Attendances at Sheffield Steelers are on the rise, but they still lag behind arch rivals Nottingham Panthers.

The Play Off champions, who won the title in Nottingham's building, sit in 64th place in recent IIHF study of Europe and Asia leagues.

That's up 19 places from the previous year.

On average, over 4,800 fans watched the side's home games this season.

That figure, however, puts them 26 places below the Nottingham Panthers, who lie in 38th.

Corey Nielson's Continental Cup winners - watched by over 5,700 at each home game on average - have the highest attendance figures in the Elite Ice Hockey League.

A goal for the champions

A goal for the champions

Sheffield spokesman Dave Simms said: "We congratulate Nottingham on those numbers.

"But we are growing fast, and will be trying to catch them up next season. We've certainly overtaken them in the winning of trophies, now we want to fill even more of our seats at the Arena than we have been doing."

The rise in attendances at Sheffield Arena represents a general trend throughout the division, which saw a 12 per cent growth in crowds this year from the 2015/16 season.

This is the fourth successive year spectator numbers in the EIHL have increased, on average. The league now boasts the seventh highest average attendance in Europe and Asia, with more than 940,000 attendees this season.

Elite League chairman, Tony Smith, said: "It has been another excellent year for the Elite League.

“This season has been one of the most competitive we have seen since the league was formed, with an exciting title race and the battle for the playoffs going right down to the last weekend" said Smith, who owns Steelers.

“It is a testament to the hard work that goes on every week at both club and league level that attendances continue to rise."

Smith now wants to kick-on and surpass one million viewers.

"With Guildford and Milton Keynes joining us from next season naturally we expect that trend to continue and we hope to smash the one million spectator mark during 2017/18." he said.

Swiss club SC Bern topped the attendance list for the 16th consecutive year, averaging over 16,000 spectators per home game.

The side from the Swiss capital were one of just six teams across Europe with an average home attendance of over 10,000.

Meanwhile, the Swiss National League A - where SC Bern play their hockey - had the highest average attendance of all European leagues for the fifth consecutive year.

On average, more than 6,800 fans watched each game.

READ MORE: Click here for all the latest news from the ice hockey scene