ROGAN TAYLOR: YOU CAN BET IT ISN’T FAIR

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It must be the silly season, timed for the middle of the football season, when we get lists like ‘The Top 100 Players in the World’ (see January 3rd posting) quickly followed by ‘Which Football Team has the Most Fanatical Fans?’ which the statisticians at Betfair have put together recently.

At least they are up front about the frailties of the process; recognising that, ‘There’s absolutely no point in trying to quantify the ‘fandom’ of football’. But nevertheless, they have a go, focussing simply on the clubs currently in the Premier League, and using a variety of stats for our amusement.

Of course, everybody knows which PL club has the most fans (although the actual numbers and definitions of a ‘fan’ can vary widely in research). Man Utd are frequently claimed to have around one third of a billion fans globally which contrasts with a mere 37million ‘likes’ on the Club’s Facebook page.

I don’t suppose many match-attending supporters would be particularly surprised to learn that Cardiff City have the ‘most aggressive’ fans in the PL (based by Betfair on the fact that 121 banning orders have been issued to Cardiff supporters; a number double the average of the rest of the clubs in the PL).

And the four clubs closest to Cardiff City’s unwanted title on the official banning order scale (which includes FL clubs as well) come as no surprise either, in descending order: Chelsea (110); Man Utd (91); Leeds Utd (72) and Millwall (65). But there are some odd surprises, as reported by the Daily Mirror: More fans at Nuneaton get arrested (but presumably not banned) than at Millwall.

But who would you reckon were the ‘most respectful’ supporters in the PL? Betfair say its Norwich City, though they don’t say why; presumably because with a mere 10 banning orders, the Canaries appear to be the most well-behaved.

The Canaries don’t sing the loudest though. If that’s a measure of fan-fanaticism, then the prize goes to Liverpool fans, measured at 97 decibels; closely followed by Man Utd at 94, with a surprise appearance of Aston Villa in third place with 89 decibels (though it’s difficult to tell whether some of that is actually loud moaning; come to think of it, that might be true at Old Trafford too, these days). They all pale, however, compared to FC Schalke 04, whose fans have been measured at 160 decibels, no less.

The Betfair guys ask – and answer – the intriguing, but weird, question, ‘Which clubs are most watched by their own and opposition fans when they’re playing away?’ It is an interesting and weird conclusion too.

Top of the list come Swansea City, with 35,534; Liverpool are 2nd with 35,388 and West Brom are 3rd with 35,197. Everton come in 4th and Norwich City 6th. Chelsea and Man City come in at 9th and 10th respectively; Man Utd and Arsenal don’t even make the top ten. What’s all that about?

If activity on Twitter (ie numbers of ‘followers’ which are easy to count) is any measure of fanaticism, then Chelsea and Arsenal reign supreme, with over 3 million each, and Liverpool a distant 3rd place with just over 2 million. Perhaps surprisingly, the two Manchester giants make up the rest of the top five, with 1.5 million for Utd and 1.3 for City. Perhaps these numbers merely reflect the energy that each club puts into developing this form of social media?

I must make a New Year’s Resolution not to read any more lists.

Dr Rogan Taylor is the Director of the Football Industry Group at the University of Liverpool. He is also a writer and broadcaster, with five football books and numerous radio and TV contributions. He has acted as a special adviser to The FA, The Premier League and Premier League Clubs.

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