Deciding which team to support can be a tricky business. Most people have probably forgotten why they chose to put on the shirt of a particular club. Sometimes it’s based on home town pride, sometimes it’s because of an iconic player, and sometimes it’s because ‘my dad supports them’ – an excuse often used when supporting a club on the other side of the country.
Supporting a club close to home is traditionally seen as the behaviour of a ‘proper fan.’ But a recent study conducted by internet provider Plusnet has shown that – according to Google search data – only 13 of the UK’s 50 counties are most interested in a local club.
The study monitored what percentage of the Google search traffic for a particular area was directed at a local club, as opposed to a club found in another location.
Bristol, Derbyshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, Greater London, Greater Manchester, Leicestershire, Merseyside, Norfolk, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, and Worcestershire all proved to be the most loyal.
The rest of the counties are shared between Manchester United and Arsenal, with the Red Devils dominating the clear majority of locations. Considering the global fan base of both teams, it’s not surprising that Manchester United and Arsenal are far and away the most popular clubs in the UK.
Which Counties Are the Most Loyal to Their Local Team?
Greater London – There is some truth to the stereotype that many Manchester United fans are from the south, as while Arsenal came top in Greater London, they were closely followed by United, who were exposed as the second most popular club in the region.
Chelsea were the third most popular club in London, with the rest of the traffic split between the monumental number of clubs in the area (West Ham, Charlton Athletic, Brentford, Millwall, Spurs, Fulham, and Barnet, to name just a few).
Yorkshire – Yorkshiremen (and women) are notoriously proud of their county, so it’s not surprising that this region proved to be one of the most diverse.
Championship high-flyers Leeds United were the most popular club in West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire. Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United and Rotherham were the most popular clubs in South Yorkshire, while the residents of East Yorkshire were most interested in relegation-threatened Hull.
Merseyside – Everton came out on top in their home county, with the data confirming the Toffees as the most popular club in almost every city and borough, including Liverpool. Liverpool FC were a close second however, with fierce rivals Manchester United ranking third.
Nottinghamshire – Despite the off-field issues that are dragging this former giant into the bottom positions of the Championship, Nottingham Forrest is the most searched-for club in Nottinghamshire, with League Two strugglers Notts County the third most popular club after the ever-present Man United.
Lancashire – Lancastrians remained loyal to their native clubs, with Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, and Liverpool registering the most online interest. The rest of Lancashire’s clubs failed to reach the top spots, including Burnley, Bury, Preston, Bolton, Blackpool, Fleetwood, Morecambe, and Accrington Stanley (Accrington Stanley? Who are they?).
The Worst Offenders
Hampshire – Despite establishing themselves as a production line of excellent Premier League players (then selling them to Liverpool), Southampton aren’t the most popular club in Hampshire. Man United and Arsenal are joint top in the county, with the Saints relegated to the third.
Cambridgeshire – The U’s have been resoundingly ignored by the residents of Cambridgeshire, with Cambridge United failing to register even half the online interest of Arsenal or Manchester United. The Posh managed to wrestle into third place, earning an average of 18,800 searches a month.
Staffordshire – Even Sparky’s revitalised Stoke City couldn’t propel them into the top spot in Staffordshire, as the Potters remain firmly in second place behind Manchester United.
Suffolk – Mick McCarthy’s men will be aghast to find out that their local area is more interested in Manchester United, Arsenal, and West Ham than Ipswich Town.
Kent – League One’s Gillingham miss out massively in their home county of Kent, with Arsenal leading the line as the most popular club in the area. Wenger’s men are followed by Manchester United, then West Ham.
Wiltshire – It turns out that the Robins aren’t exactly soaring above the competition in Wiltshire, as Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool dominate the search traffic for the county.
Ultimately, we must take this data with a pinch of salt. After all, even football fans who support a local – perhaps less glamorous – side, may still be interested in the goings on in the Premier League. The data doesn’t account for second teams, either, so perhaps (hopefully) supporters in the UK are a little more loyal than we give them credit for.