World Football

Power Ranking Each English Premier League Team's Fanbase

Joshua HaywardContributor ISeptember 24, 2013

Power Ranking Each English Premier League Team's Fanbase

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    via www.bbc.co.uk
    via www.bbc.co.uk

    Each week across the Premier League thousands of fans flock to see their beloved team turn out.

    But, of course, not every fan is able to attend the latest match. Or any match, for that matter. Many clubs have fans living in all parts of the world who, for that reason, may never get to see their team in the flesh.

    That, alone, makes the Premier League one of the greatest leagues in the world. It is a global league. Die-hard supporters all over the world will wake up at all hours through the night to turn on their TV and tune into their sports channel or access their computer to get hold of an internet feed streaming the latest fixture.

    Shirts—both genuine and counterfeit—emblazoned with the specific team's badge, manufacturer, sponsor and, more often than not, star player's name and number are sold across the globe.

    Fans from Vancouver to Victoria will proudly wear the team's shirt across their chest, showing their allegiance.

    And this is the same for all 20 Premier League outfits—but on a varied scale.

    So, with that in mind, we shall rank each club's fanbase.

20. Hull City

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    Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

    Known largely for its rugby league, Hull has seen its football team Hull City—or Hull City Tigers as they are to be known—make strides to expand their reach across the continents.

    Having gained promotion back to the top flight last season, the club, owned by Egyptian business tycoon Assem Allam, have moved to make themselves known throughout the world.

    With Allam's suggestion that a rebrand will help the club to "find their identity," it may not be too long before we see the Tigers roar.

19. Cardiff City

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    Cardiff joined Swansea as the Premier League's second Welsh participants after an outstanding 2012-13 Championship campaign.

    The club from the Welsh capital is owned by Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan, whose estimated worth is $1.3 billion.

    With Cardiff having a relatively-small following outside of the UK and Wales in particular, Tan expressed his desire to list his 36.1 per cent stake on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange in order to gain capital and expand the business.

18. Swansea City

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Michael Laudrup's Swansea have earned plaudits up and down the country and across the globe for the aesthetically-pleasing yet effective style of football they play.

    Wales' first club to participate in the Premier League have, since their promotion in 2011, been one of the stand-out teams outside the "top six."

    The club is owned and run by Welshman Huw Jenkins and his family, though they have big visions for the Swans.

    Just this season the club struck a deal with online trading services company GWFX who operate across the UK, New Zealand and Hong Kong—something that is sure to pay dividends as the Welsh club look to expand globally.

     

17. Norwich City

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    Norwich City are widely known, in part, due to majority shareholder and TV chef Delia Smith, director Stephen Fry as well as Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge.

    But they are not the only reason Norwich have such an established following.

    Along with many of their Premier League counterparts, Norwich took to the States during the offseason in order to prepare the team for the upcoming season as well as build upon the Norwich brand.

    Fixtures against Mexican outfit Dorados di Sinaloa before clashes against MLS sides San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers will have given Norwich exposure further afield.

    The East Anglian club's home of Carrow Road—capacity 27,250—saw 99 per cent of tickets sold for the 2012-13 campaign with 18 of 19 home games sold out.

16. Southampton

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    After 27 years of playing in English football's top flight, Southampton were relegated in 2005.

    But after a six-year sabbatical, in which they played in the second and third tier, Southampton gained promotion back to the Premier League.

    Known worldwide during the 1980s, '90s and early part of the 21st century—mainly due to the genius of former player Matthew Le Tissier—Southampton have since acquired more fans off-shore following the takeover by the Swiss Liebherr group in 2009.

15. Stoke City

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    Stoke's return to the top flight of English football was confirmed on the final day of the 2007/08 season. And ever since then, the club from the Potteries have established themselves as a Premier League outfit.

    Former manager Tony Pulis turned the Britannia Stadium into a fortress—many sides did not look forward to the trip, fearing the cauldron-like atmosphere certain to be waiting.

    A slump in form during last season's campaign saw both Tony Pulis sacked and a decrease in crowd size—Stoke's average attendance dropping by 1.8 per cent on the previous year.

    The poor performance on the pitch, coupled with financial hardship up and down the country, saw the Potters sell out just 13 of their available 19 home games—unprecedented figures for the football-mad Stokies.

    However, the appointment of Mark Hughes has brought about new levels of optimism amongst fans and with Stoke-born chairman Peter Coates offering fans free transport to every 2013-14 away fixture, attendances will increase. 

14. West Brom

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    With the Midlands home to a number of clubs—and the majority of fans supporters of Aston Villa—West Brom have emerged as the second-largest team, largely due to their successes during the 1950s and '60s.

    Successes in the League Cup and FA Cup during this time separated West Brom from their fellow Midlands' rivals, exposing them to fans further afield.

    The Baggies' fans filled 93 per cent of the Hawthorns during each home game last season and with a new-found, free-flowing, attractive style of football under boss Steve Clarke, West Brom are sure to continue acquiring new supporters.

13. Crystal Palace

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Though Crystal Palace are Premier League newcomers, their fan base stretches beyond what the everyday fan might think.

    Selhurst Park—the league's 17th-largest stadium—is consistently sold out for home games, as you'd probably expect of a side recently promoted from English football's second tier.

    As the smallest London club in the Premier League, one might think that the large majority of Palace fans were limited to the UK only, but their sponsor gives them an advantage over many of their rivals.

    The Eagles' sponsorship with GAC Logistics stretches back to 2004—making it one of the longest-standing partnerships in UK football.

    GAC employ more than 8000 people across 300 offices worldwide, with their headquarters in Dubai.

    If Palace can secure their top-flight status this season, then their fan base is sure to expand.

12. Fulham

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Though Craven Cottage is the Premier League's 18th-largest stadium, Fulham are a well-run and well-followed club side.

    Run successfully by Mohamed Al-Fayed for 16 years between 1997-2013, the Egyptian recently handed over the reins to American billionaire Shahid Khan.

    In similar fashion to Aston Villa's Randy Lerner, Khan is an owner of an NFL side—the Jacksonville Jaguars in his case—though Lerner recently sold his franchise.

    But if Khan can replicate Lerner's successes of turning fans of American football into followers of his other vested interest, then Fulham's stock is sure to grow across the Atlantic.

    Fulham claim to have season ticket holders and club members—including official supporters' organisations—in 40 different countries across the globe. 

    And although Craven Cottage is a relatively-small stadium in comparison with other Premier League rivals, Fulham flans flock to each and every home game with the West London club selling 99 per cent of their available tickets last season.

11. West Ham

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    One of London's best-known and most notorious clubs, West Ham proudly profess an accolade no other Premier League side can: England's three most influential players during their successful World Cup 1966 campaign were playing for the Hammers.

    Captain Bobby Moore and both goalscorers in the final, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, all donned the claret and blue strip at the time.

    With domestic cups to their name prior to 1966, West Ham had a solid foundation and a great following, but the antics of their three heroes during their World Cup saw their fan base soar.

    West Ham's Boleyn Ground—fondly known as Upton Park—is the 11th-largest Premier League stadium and, rather unsurprisingly, with some of the league's most passionate fans, sold 99% of all available tickets during the 2012-13 season, selling out 17 of a possible 19 matches.

    And in keeping with fellow Premier League sides, the East London club have taken advantage of gaining sponsorship from further ashore and, as of August this year, renewed their deal with international mobile operator Lycamobile.

    Following the renewal of the agreement, Lycamobile chairman Subaskaran Allirajah said:

    Our sponsorship of West Ham United Football Club has proved successful for both parties and we are thrilled to be extending our relationship. West Ham United is hugely popular in our key markets, and we are excited to continue work with this fantastic Club and engage closely with its loyal fans.

     

10. Sunderland

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    In a similar fashion to that of Liverpool and Everton, Sunderland have had to play second fiddle to North-East neighbours Newcastle for large parts of the club's history.

    There's absolutely no shame in that, of course, although fans of the Black Cats will be keen to get out of the Magpies' shadow.

    A statistic the Mackems can be proud of is that, during the 2012-13 season, they averaged the seventh-highest attendance of any team in the league and had the third-highest growth in attendance with an extra 3.7 per cent of the stadium's capacity turning up on average.

    In typical Premier League club fashion, Sunderland have attempted to build upon their fan base by signing lucrative sponsorship deals with companies from across the globe—Invest in Africa a prime example.

    With Africa boasting almost 300 million fans of England's top tier of football, the Invest in Africa partnership could not have come at a better time.

    Upon the announcement of the deal, a statement on the Sunderland website read:

    In a unique sponsorship deal, Sunderland players will display the Invest in Africa logo on their shirts in every game they play in the 2012/13 season. The partnership will also help Sunderland build its fan base and global brand, particularly in Africa where nearly 300 million people watch Premier League matches.

    Through its award-winning Foundation of Light community initiative, Sunderland will work with Invest in Africa to launch football schemes which promote development on the continent.

     

9. Everton

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Overshadowed by their bitter rivals for a large part of their existence, Everton have remained a solid, dependable and reliable club—without setting the world alight—remaining in England's top flight since the 1954-55 season.

    One of the founding members of the football league in 1888, Everton's fan base has progressed through the years and, during the last decade more specifically, has branched further afield.

    The multi-million pound deal with Chinese telecommunications company Kejian as the club's sponsor in 2002 saw the Toffees acquire Chinese midfielder Li Tie—Kejian sponsoring Li's contract.

    Naturally, this awarded the Merseyside club more exposure which, in turn, saw their fan base expand. 

    With solid support in their own country increasing year by year—the Toffees' average attendances rising by 9.4 per cent during last season in comparison to the previous campaign—Everton will look to better their ninth-place ranking in years to come.

8. Aston Villa

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    via www.huffingtonpost.com
    via www.huffingtonpost.com

    Despite having failed to secure any silverware in more than 17 years and without any real European recognition since lifting the European Cup in 1982, Villa still sit pretty high on the list.

    The Midlands club's finest hour came 31 long years ago as they beat German giants Bayern Munich in Rotterdam to claim Europe's most prestigious club honour.

    Two League Cups during the following decade remain Villa's last domestic triumphs—a once-great club currently fending off the advances of mediocrity.

    There seems to be split feeling amongst Villa fans as to whether their team should still be considered a "big club."

    But there is no doubt the Villans do have the resources and the potential to become a "big club" once again. We'll consider them a sleeping giant for the moment.

    The claret and blue side do have a rabid and far-reaching fan base, however, with the club supporting more than 150 officially recognised Lions Clubs (official supporters' organisations) worldwide. 

    And moving with the times, Villa have recently secured deals with Turkish Airlines and Philippines-based online gaming service provider Dafabet in order to increase their fan base across Asia.

    The Birmingham side's owner Randy Lerner—an American billionaire—owned NFL side Cleveland Browns until 2012, which provided a base for Americans to take note of Lerner's other keen interest.

    Villa do have some of the more notable famous fans, too. Hollywood actor Tom Hanks, Father Ted's Mrs Doyle, Pauline McLynn, Prime Minister David Cameron and, last but not least, Prince William are all supporters. 

7. Newcastle United

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Football in Newcastle is not just a sport, it is a way of life. The Magpies have, without a doubt, some of the most ardent and passionate fans in world football.

    St. James' Park holds the third-highest capacity of any league team in England and during the 2012-13 season—despite Newcastle struggling at the foot of the table—the club sold an average of 97% of available tickets

    In times of financial hardship, Newcastle have engineered a way to make football more accessible to fans and maintain their impressive attendance.

    According to a BBC report, the club have bucked the trend of soaring ticket prices by offering the cheapest adult match-day ticket in the league at just £15. 

    The Magpies do keep with the times in other ways, too, and, as of last season, were the sixth most-followed team on Twitter

6. Tottenham

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    In a time of continued and growing demand for Premier League football, Tottenham have, during recent seasons, branched out to attract fans from further afield.

    England's top tier is broadcast across 212 countries across the world and Spurs have moved to add to their ever-increasing fan base. 

    Former executive director Charlie Wijeratna—since sacked by Daniel Levy—stated that Spurs had 179 million supporters in other parts of the world yet drew "zero revenues" from them.

    To combat this, Spurs took to a major rebranding during 2011, selling their TV rights along with signing a number of significant sponsorship deals, which include the 2013-14 shirt sponsor AIA—a Hong Kong-based insurance company. 

    The North London club's home ground of White Hart Lane has a capacity of 36,500—the league's 10th-highest—with 23,500 of those season ticket holders. Another 32,000 are currently on a long, paid-for waiting list for season tickets.

    Tottenham are striving in the Premier League, both on and off the field, with recent successes under former manager Harry Redknapp and current boss Andre Villas-Boas drawing increasingly more attention to the Lilywhites.

5. Manchester City

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    Ten years ago, if you'd told Manchester City fans that their club would have been the Premier League's fifth-highest ranked side in terms of fan base, then they would have laughed at you.

    If you'd told them the same thing two years ago, however, then they'd probably be pretty annoyed that they weren't slightly higher on the list.

    Like Chelsea, City have gained more recognition, both on and off the pitch, in recent years due to a serious influx of cash.

    The Citizens were purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008 and have since spent vast sums transforming their club from mid-table residents to title-winning champions.

    The addition of players such as Robinho, Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero has seen shirt sales expand significantly.

    Former City striker John Macken would have sold shirts, but his numbers would have paled into insignificance compared with the likes of Aguero whose shirt was the fourth-most popular Premier League jersey bought across the globe last season.

    City's relatively-short period of time in the spotlight—as opposed to that of Liverpool and bitter rivals United—means that their global fan base of just 18 million looks like poor viewing.

    But with a neverending supply of financial resources, City's endeavours to become one of the world's most popular clubs could one day come to fruition—though it'll be hard to knock the Reds off their perch.

    A recent announcement that the club had launched 10 new international websites will only increase their ever-growing fan base, however. 

4. Arsenal

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    The North London outfit are renowned for a business model that consistently cements their place as one of the most profitable clubs in world football.

    The Forbes rich list, published in April 2012, had Arsenal sitting high and pretty as the fourth richest club in world football with an estimated value of £807 million.

    But it's not just Arsenal's finances that are in order.

    The Gunners are also one of the best-supported teams across the globe—recognising 10 official supporters' clubs across the continents. A worldwide fan base of more than 113 million people has Arsenal sitting just behind Chelsea, third of all Premier League teams, though the Blues' business model runs in a completely different way.

    Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been happy to soak up financial losses in order to fund on-pitch successes whilst Arsenal, who remain trophy-less since 2005, have managed to balance their books and make a profit year-on-year.

    Whether Arsenal fans are truly happy with this method is another debate for another day...

    The North London club's stadium holds the second-highest capacity across the country with a maximum of 60,362 supporters allowed into the Emirates Stadium at any one time. So it's not too surprising, then, that the club had the second-largest attendance—behind Manchester United-- last year and were able to sell out every home game.

    The sale of Dutchman Robin Van Persie, although it made them a pretty penny, did hit them in terms of shirt sales, but Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla still made the top 10 global shirt sales.

3. Liverpool

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The trophy-laden Merseyside club are one of the most recognisable football teams across the world.

    Ian Callaghan, Emlyn Hughes, Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, John Barnes, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard are just a few names that have had the honour of playing for such a prestigious club over the years.

    The likes of these players, through bringing Liverpool success, have raised the profile of the club significantly.

    But despite a slump in form over recent years which has failed to yield a league title, Liverpool remain one of the best-supported teams on the planet.

    As of January 2013, Liverpool's global fan based topped 70 million—not bad considering the Anfield club have been unsuccessful in their efforts to claim a league title for more than 20 years.

    Recent successes in the League Cup, FA Cup and Charity Shield will have done them favours with fans, though. And memories of the incredibly-dramatic 2005 Champions League final win will ensure trophy-hungry fans across the globe don't go in search of greener pastures.

    Liverpool, owned by John W. Henry's Fenway Sports Group, do have one up on fellow Premier League opposition, however.

    The Reds have embraced the social media buzz and, as of the turn of the year, are Twitter's most globally-followed club, surpassing Barcelona. 

    Anfield's capacity of 45,276 is just the sixth-highest capacity in English football but, despite that, England captain Gerrard and the ever-controversial Luis Suarez accounted for 11.8 per cent of UK shirt sales for the 2012/13 season.

    Liverpool's plan's to redevelop their home will see their capacity rise to a whopping 60,000—something that is sure to increase revenue which will, in turn, help them to expand on their already-solid global fan base.

     

2. Chelsea

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    Roman Abramovich's mega-rich Chelsea are second on the list.

    Since his takeover in 2003, the Russian business tycoon has made Chelsea one of the most popular clubs to follow across the world—quite an achievement considering their relatively-unsuccessful history in English football prior to his takeover.

    An influx of star players, such as Hernan Crespo, Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Ballack, Fernando Torres and, more recently, Samuel Eto'o, as well as high-profile managers such as Carlo Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink and, of course, Jose Mourinho has seen the Blues' fan base multiply over the recent years.

    BBC's Phil McNulty reported that, according to data website SportMarkt, Chelsea have a global fan base of 135 million—second only to Manchester United.

    The Blues also had two players—Eden Hazard and £50 million striker Fernando Torres—in both the UK and world's top 10 list of shirt sales during 2012-13. The pair ranked sixth and eighth respectively on the UK list and sixth and fifth respectively globally.

    Chelsea's home ground, Stamford Bridge, is the Premier League's eighth-largest stadium, but the Blues maintain a high average attendance—99.2 per cent according to the Soccerstats website. 

1. Manchester United

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Of course, the Premier League team with the largest, widest-reaching fan base is Manchester United.

    In 2012 the Telegraph reported that, according to a survey, United had doubled their fan base during a five-year period—amassing an incredible 659 million fans. 

    The survey, commissioned by the Manchester club, discovered that football has 1.6 billion fans globally with United having commercial partners in 72 countries.

    The Telegraph quotes United's commercial director Richard Arnold as saying:

    This piece of research is very important, not only for commercial partnerships—both new and existing—but it also provides a roadmap that allows the club to understand exactly what is going on.

    Arnold refused to give details of rival fan bases but did reveal that United had twice as many fans in Asia as their nearest rivals—Barcelona.

    In addition to their global following, the Red Devils accounted for 39.9 per cent of Premier League shirt sales in the UK during the 2012-13 season, according to Kitbag.

    Robin Van Persie—who outsold his nearest rival Steven Gerrard by more than 17 per cent—featured in the top 10 alongside teammates Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and Paul Scholes, according to the Daily Mail.

    According to the StadiumGuide website, the Premier League sold 95.1 per cent of all available tickets throughout 2012-13 with United unsurprisingly one of only four clubs to sell out during each and every one of their home games.

     

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