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July 17, 2018

Which football team does London support?

Can you aggregate the number of tweets about London football clubs in the Premier League and mapped it out?

By Haydon Etherington

Back in 2013, Oxford University’s Internet Institute did a fantastic bit of work on localised football support. It aggregated the number of tweets about Premier League teams over the 2012 season and mapped it out. (Since the latest data is six years old, Crystal Palace don’t feature, but QPR do.)

London football clubs
There were eight London clubs in First Division in the 1989–90 season. (Image Wiki Commons/Ordnance Survey data/Crown copyright/CC BY-SA 3.0)

I’ve had a play around with the website and tried to fit the postcode data more-or-less around the London boroughs to see what it says about which boroughs support which teams. (As the data is postcode-based, not population-based, you should take the results with a pinch of salt.)

Obviously, some of the results won’t come as much surprise – Islington supports Arsenal, and Haringey supports Tottenham. More interesting, however, are the places with no local Premier League team – Westminster, Camden, Lambeth, for example.

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Here’s what my comically mistimed research uncovered.

North London isn’t red

“North London is red, red, red, red 
North London is red, red, red, red 
North London is red, red, red, red 
Red, red, red, red”

…is how Arsenal’s highly original chant goes, I’ve been informed.

Well, as well as a certain lack of lyrical flair, this ditty is based on a fairly misinformed premise. Tottenham saw off the opposition in 11 boroughs and around 60 postcodes, whereas the supposed rulers of North London managed a measly three boroughs, only twio of which are in the North.

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This isn’t to say it’s all doom and gloom for the Gunners – they are the most popular team in 25 of London’s postcode areas. Unfortunately, this leaves them third place in a two-team game, coming behind their north London derby rivals Spurs, and east London’s West Ham.

Still, maybe Arsenal fans can console themselves with the fact it’s just Twitter data – you’re the silent majority, I’m sure.

The City can’t make up its mind

Of course, with its history of being just a bit different from the rest of London, the City couldn’t even decide on a football team to support.

Despite having a population of just 9,000 people, well below even the smallest borough, they manage to support 4 football teams equally: Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham and QPR.

Who else can’t make up their mind? Merton manages to hold together a coalition of warring factions, with equal support for the North London and Manchester Derby teams; whereas Greenwich is slightly less indecisive, and has a direct fight between West Ham and Spurs.

West Ham exists

Despite a spate of fairly average performances in successive Premier Leagues, West Ham dominates the east of the city. The Hammers have majority support in nine London boroughs and nearly a quarter of London’s nearly 250 postcode areas.

Even more surprising is that this feat was managed despite being relegated to the Championship for the 2011-12 season: talk about a recovery.

Curiously, the leafy suburbs of Richmond and Kingston support the team, despite being on the opposite side of the city. Which makes London a sort of West Ham sandwich.

Chelsea doesn’t support Chelsea; Fulham doesn’t support Fulham

One of the interesting quirks of the data is that the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea appears to (just about) support Spurs in more areas than it does Chelsea.

Something fans can take some pride in, however, is that neighbouring Hammersmith and Fulham don’t support their local team either – preferring to opt for Chelsea, even in the areas surrounding Craven Cottage.

The other of the West London teams in the Premier League at the time, QPR, didn’t manage to get a single borough, picking up only 11 postcodes spread across the city.

So much for local pride.

South London doesn’t much like London

Speaking of which, South London doesn’t seem to really support London at all. Both Manchester teams enjoy a dedicated support base across the South, with Man City topping the list in Croydon and Sutton, while Lambeth opts for Man United.

West London is not much more loyal. There, despite pockets of support for London teams, we see support for Man City in Hounslow and Everton in Ealing (I know, I’m surprised too).

It doesn’t look like this has much to do with how central you are: 11 out of 12 of the inner London boroughs support local teams (although Greenwich isn’t clear-cut, it’s definitely between Spurs and West Ham), whilst 15 out of 20 of the outer boroughs support London clubs. That’s about 90 per cent of inner boroughs vs 80 per cent of outer boroughs.

More likely is that the proximity to a Premier League team determines both support, and the enthusiasm for London football with which this is associated. The boroughs home to Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, QPR, Tottenham and West Ham all support a London team; so do most of their neighbours. But none of these lay south of the river.

If the Institute were to conduct the study again, we may well find that the inclusion of a South London team gives us a slightly different picture.

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