That’s an easy one isn’t it? It’s the team who has the most fans isn’t it? Well not quite, you see some teams are from big cities and others are from small towns. Some are global names with over a century of top flight history drawing support from across the world magnet-like, others are newer on the scene with their history ensconced in the lower leagues or even non league football and are still trying to establish themselves in the upper echelons of the game.
To understand which clubs’ truly get great support we need to understand what their catchment area is and also the competing forces in the form of rivals that also reside within their locality.
Surely support is all relative when you consider a few simple factors like that? There are “football fans” out there who like to criticise “the likes of Wigan Athletic” because we don’t get the crowds that say a Southampton or Leicester get and therefore shouldn’t be in the Premier League. But aren’t these places cities with populations four times the size of Wigan? Shouldn’t they be getting four times the crowds Wigan do?
Yes it’s time to level the playing field again as TNS is proud to present the:
Premier League attendance table as a percentage of population by Johnny Bogroll
Here is an updated piece on a table done by NRP a couple of years ago. I had a few ideas to make the table more scientific, but many of the methods would be up for debate over how they should be measured. So instead, the table takes the basic facts without weighting in other arguable factors.
The high placings of the likes of Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool are to be expected. The history and in most cases recent success of these teams leads them to have a much larger catchment area of fans than most other teams, with fans being drawn from well outside their city limits. Newcastle do have an impressive showing but again, they do have a fairly large catchment area surrounding Newcastle City Centre.
The three stand-out teams in the top 10 however are Fulham, Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers. These are three unfashionable type clubs who are unlikely to attract much, if any support from outside their town or borough limits.
However, unlike Blackburn and Fulham who are two of the oldest Football League clubs and have a long history of playing in the top flight; Wigan Athletic are a relatively new football league club. It would be hard to argue against their position in the table being by far the most exceptional. The youngest team in the league, they were only founded in 1932 and were in fact still a non-league club until just over 30 years ago. Situated in the North West which is the most densely populated football area in the country; in a 20 mile radius, Wigan are surrounded by 6 other Premier League teams with a much longer and more successful history than their own. On top of this, Wigan Athletic also find themselves in the unusual position of sharing their town with their main rival, being one of another sporting code. Wigan Athletic and Wigan Warriors RL have a long standing hated rivalry between each other which leads to there being very little crossover with both sets of fans. It could be argued the population figures should be halved to account for this which would then lead to the Latics having 36.50% of their available population attending games at the DW Stadium. On a side note, if you take the raw attendance averages then Wigan’s are higher than seven other teams to have played in the Premier League. Coventry, QPR, Wimbledon, Barnsley, Bradford, Swindon and Oldham all have lower average Premier League attendances, yet apart from Wigan; only Wimbledon have ever received ridicule for their crowd sizes.
Perhaps the only unfair placing in the table is Spurs. White Hart Lane sells out regularly and they are likely to have significantly higher crowds with a bigger stadium.
By far the worst performing teams are the Midlands clubs of Aston Villa and Wolves; in particularly, Aston Villa with a dire 6.03%. For a founding member of the Football League who have throughout their history have won 1 European Cup, 7 League titles, 7 FA Cups and 5 League Cups, their attendances are dreadful. Villa are based in England’s second city, are one of the country’s most successful clubs and are one of only seven clubs who have remained in the Premier League since its inception. For them to attract such a small percentage of people from the city to their games and be almost 10,000 under capacity is quite simply appalling.
The poor showings of Swansea and Norwich can partly be attributed to their grounds usually being full to capacity but there isn’t a huge demand at either club for extra tickets so it’s hard to imagine the attendances would be all that much higher with larger grounds. Add to this their lack of proximity to any other Premier League team then it shows their positions to be even poorer. Sunderland are another stand-out poor showing, with their attendances falling a huge 15,000 below capacity. They’re a club that also have a fairly large catchment area outside the city limits so again it shows their attendances to be even worse than displayed on the table.
The table obviously has minor faults in giving a true exact representation but I believe it demonstrates a few definite facts. One is that from their available captive audience/populations, Wigan Athletic, Fulham and Blackburn Rovers have the most impressive figures in the Premier League, whilst Aston Villa have by far the worst.
Attendances are taken from the 2011/2012 season average as of 25th February 2012. There is an adjustment of -3000 to account for away fans. There are no available figures for away attendances so 3000 is used as this tends to be the standard allocation of tickets given to most clubs.
Population figures are all taken from 2001 census or 2007-2010 Office for National Statistics
Arsenal figures taken from population of the Borough of Islington.
Manchester Utd and Manchester City figures taken from Manchester population divided by two to account for both clubs.
Fulham and QPR figures taken from Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham divided by two to account for both clubs.
Chelsea figures taken from population of the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Liverpool and Everton figures taken from Liverpool population divided by two to account for both clubs.
Spurs figures taken from population of the Borough of Haringey.
Aston Villa figures taken from population of Birmingham divided by two to account for Birmingham City.
Stoke City figures taken from the population of Stoke On Trent minus the population of Burslem to account for Port Vale.
Blackburn, Wigan, WBA, Bolton, Sunderland, Newcastle, Wolves, Norwich and Swansea figures all taken from their respective town or cities populations.
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