The Premier League: A Geographic Anomaly

Chris PotterCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2009

This season's Premier League comprises six teams based in the Northwest, six in London, four in the North East and just four in other parts of England (Aston Villa, West Brom, Stoke and Portsmouth).

This is a geography that has little changed since the inauguration of this prestigious competition 16 years ago.

This anomaly whereby football clubs from the North West of the country and from London have dominated English football's top flight is puzzling.

While it is true that many of these clubs - Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham for example - have glorious pasts and numerous successes that stretch back into the last century and even the one before that, it is also true that many others have lost their way.

On the one hand, Yorkshire, a proud county of four million people with a history of sporting prowess (think Leeds United, Rugby League and Headingley), now has one solitary top-flight representative where it once had three.

On the other hand, Greater Manchester, a far less populous county than Yorkshire, has four representatives.

London is of course a slightly different case, with a large catchment area of wealthy fans from both the South East and South West and greater financial clout.

But what about the rest of England? The Midlands? Two sides. The South? One side.

So - why do clubs that have to compete for fans with nearby rivals tend to fare better?

Leeds United is, for example, a bigger and more historic club than Blackburn. Sheffield Wednesday is a bigger club than Fulham.

You can be sure that both Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday would have no problem selling out their satdium week in, week out were they to revive their fortunes. 

Likewise, you can be sure that Blackburn Rovers will continue to be handicapped financially from falling attendances and that Fulham will forever live in the shade of their more illustrious Blue neighbours. But they will fight - and they will stay up because...well...just because that's what happens generally.

Perhaps teams such as Ipswich and Norwich, Coventry and Derby felt lonely - they had no bitter rivals and, as such, no fight in them?

Is it a money matter? Does money create and maintain success? Surely not given Fulham, Blackburn and Portsmouth's prolonoged presence.

Is it that people in the Midlanders are mad about their mares, that Yorkshire folk are too busy admiring their yorkers? Are East Anglians are too busy angling? Is the Black Country a sporting black hole?

Probably, I'm reading too much into it and should put down my Atlas and my population censuses and just accept the fact that good sides stay up and bad ones go down. 

It doesn't seem to me that other top-flight European leagues suffer from the same geographic lopsidedness.

Can anyone out there offer other possible explanations for this peculiarity?