Status and glory or hometown pride? When it comes to most football clubs in the UK, it’s difficult to achieve both. Mancunians, some Londoners and, most recently, people from Leicestershire have been able to support their local side and still enjoy the exhilaration of winning a significant trophy.
The rest of us however, have made a choice: to support our local side and grow accustomed to either the humbler ambitions of a mid-table Premier League side or the rough and tumble of lower league football.
There’s also another option. An option typically greeted with derision from the ‘proper’ fan. The decision to support a more successful side that’s located on the other side of the UK.
But how many of these so-called ‘glory supporters’ exist? We used Google search data supplied by internet provider Plusnet to understand which teams the various counties and cities of the UK are most interested in – and which boroughs are the most loyal to their local clubs.
Most searched-for clubs in the UK
Manchester United’s illustrious Alex Ferguson era earned the club countless trophies, international acclaim and a thriving fan base. This success has seemingly translated into a huge majority of remote supporters, with the Red Devils attracting an impressive 3,350,000 Google searches in the past year.
The likes of Alexis Sanchez, Hector Bellerin and emerging talent Alex Iwobi are keeping this season’s title charge on track for Arsenal, and Wenger’s long legacy of attractive football has won the Gunners the second largest support in the UK, with over 2,740,000 searches a year.
Which football league teams are the most popular?
Coverage concerning the oceans of TV money, world famous players and eye-watering transfer fees currently dominate the media, leaving many lower league football fans feeling neglected.
The data we looked at illustrated that this discrepancy in coverage is somewhat unwarranted, as many Championship, League One, and League Two teams still boast a healthy online interest.
Recent Championship additions Newcastle and Aston Villa have found different fortunes since their respective relegations, with Benitez seemingly engineering what looks like an instant promotion back to the Premier League for the Toon. Steve Bruce has made improvements but looks less likely to mirror the success he enjoyed with Hull. However, both clubs do have something in common – online dominance in their local area.
The residents of Sheffield search predominantly for Sheffield Wednesday, followed closely by League One promotion favourites Sheffield United. Leeds United and relegation-threatened Rotherham United both surpass the interest of Premier League sides to become the most popular football related search term in their respective areas.
In League Two, play-off contenders Doncaster Rovers, Carlisle, and Portsmouth all receive most the football related search traffic in their regions – numbers that are likely to rise as the promotion race hots up throughout the season.
Which counties search for a local club the most?
We analysed data from each county in the UK to get a better impression of which boroughs favour a local side, and which locales have been converted by the bright lights and trophy cabinets of the top flight. Here are the most interesting stats we uncovered:
Whether Garry Monk will transform Leeds into promotion contenders this season remains to be seen, but United still enjoy an overwhelming support in Yorkshire according to search volume. The Whites are the top searched-for team in North and West Yorkshire, beating historic rivals Manchester United for the top spots.
Hope ignited by Hull’s early resurgence at the start of the season may be dwindling with each passing week, but Mike Phelan’s men still command a dominant online support in East Yorkshire.
South Yorkshire strongly favours the two Sheffield sides, with the Owls and the Blades occupying the clear majority of the search traffic, followed by the ever-present Manchester United.
Wolves, West Brom and Birmingham all fail to make a mark in the West Midlands, with Aston Villa comfortably the most popular team in the area. Villa’s former Premier League rivals Manchester United and Arsenal take the second and third positions, suggesting that many Midlands residents are more interested in the antics of Paul Pogba than Tony Pulis.
A derby that hits all the headlines when it arrives each season, the fierce rivalry between Manchester United and Man City has been turned up a notch in the past decade ever since the Sky Blues received an astronomical cash injection from investors.
Pep Guardiola may have Man City looking the more likely of the two teams to win the title, but Manchester United overwhelmingly dominate the search volume of the teams shared county.
Lower league sides in the Greater Manchester area miss out significantly due to the allure of Pep and Mourinho’s men, with Oldham, Bury, Rochdale and many other teams failing to garner enough online interest to reach the top three.
Ronald Koeman’s controversial suggestion that Romelu Lukaku should leave Everton to fulfil his potential will have come as a shock to many Everton fans, but their position as the dominant team in Merseyside isn’t as surprising.
The Klopp effect may have turned Liverpool into real title contenders – the blip against Burnley aside – but the Reds remain comfortably the second choice in their own local area. There’s a surprising number of Manchester United fans in the area too – although this number could be affected by the masses of Everton and Liverpool fans checking up on their rivals.
The dearth of top flight clubs in East Anglia has seemingly led to a boost in support for clubs not in the local area. Man United, Arsenal, Liverpool and West Ham all feature across the county, with local clubs Peterborough United, and Ipswich relegated to third choice, and in the case of Cambridge United, failure to reach the top spots at all.
That said, promotion contenders Norwich City retain a strong influence in Norfolk, with the Canaries flying high over Premier League opposition in terms of search volume.
Tyne & Wear
A host of shrewd summer signings has left the Toon buoyant at the top of the Championship, with an impressive run of form that’s seen them take several big scalps after a shaky start. The resurgent Newcastle United boast the highest football-related search volume in Tyne and Wear, dwarfing the online interest in relegation-threatened Sunderland.
More local support in the future?
Teams like West Ham – who recently charged £50 for an under-16 ticket for their home tie with Arsenal – along with a host of other top flight teams have taken criticism for pricing ordinary people out of the game. As rising ticket prices show no signed of abating, we’re likely to see two outcomes: the creation of a generation of fans who support their team from an armchair – or an increase in the number of people who choose to support a local, more affordable team.
Do you support your local team? Does it matter? Get in touch in the comments and let us know.