A while ago, I posted a short thread on Twitter looking at English football club attendances, given the population of the city they’re located in. Of course, this was entirely motivated by my desire to see either my poorly-supported club in a small town (Colchester), or my well-supported club in a relatively large city (Portsmouth), do well. Unfortunately, neither of these things happened. On the plus side, it was pretty good practice with visualising data in R, and it bizarrely got covered by the Yeovil local paper, Somerset Live.
To do so, I firstly included all clubs (including London clubs), and simply looked at their populations and average attendances in the 15/16 season. This lead to some weird numbers, given that the London ward West Ham is in (well, was, before moving stadium this season) is just around 1500 people. It seemed too much work to account for this, so I just left them out. But for posterity, here it is (the outlier to the left is Arsenal):
Excluding London made more sense. Clearly, the most supported clubs are those in the Premiership and Championship, mostly in large cities (the Manchesters and Birmingham clubs). Despite being renowned for their support, Leeds actually do worse than you’d expect considering that the city is so large. But this is just accounting for home fans – and clearly Leeds’ support around the country boost their away following.
However, making attendance as a percentage of the population makes the picture look a lot different. Here it is ordered by league. By far and away the biggest supported club is West Brom, followed by Burnley. These, of course, are perhaps misleading: West Brom and Burnley draw their support from more than their core cities. However, it’s still an interesting way to think about club attendances, given that large city clubs are always going to have a structural advantage. This also makes sense for smaller clubs in smaller towns, like Fleetwood and Yeovil who are unlikely to draw support from much further afield.
It’s also a good indication of those clubs who really should be doing better than they are, given their population. Nonetheless, hats off to the fans of Yeovil and Fleetwood – the best supported clubs in Leagues 1 and 2 (technically).
(Portsmouth are the second in League 2, and let’s not talk about Colchester).