Which football team does London support?

Arsenal vs Spurs, earlier this year. Image: Getty.

I’m sorry, but football’s not coming home. This is perhaps an even bigger grievance to me than you’d think, as I’d hoped this article would take advantage of the sudden interest in the sport that many of us have found over the last few weeks.

Nonetheless, I hope that football fans may find solace in another article about football – and that everyone else can find solace in another article about maps.

Back in 2013, Oxford University’s Internet Institute did a fantastic bit of work on localised football support. It aggregated the number of tweets about Premier League teams over the 2012 season, and mapped it out here. (Since the latest data is six years old, Crystal Palace don’t feature, but QPR do.)

I’ve had a play around with the website and tried to fit the postcode data more-or-less around the London boroughs to see what it says about which boroughs support which teams. (As the data is postcode-based, not population-based, you should take the results with a pinch of salt.)

Obviously, some of the results won’t come as much surprise – Islington supports Arsenal, Haringey supports Tottenham. More interesting, however, are the places with no local Premier League team – Westminster, Camden, Lambeth, for example.

Here’s what my comically mistimed research uncovered.

The boroughs, colour coded by football support. Image: Haydon Etherington.

North London isn’t red

“North London is red, red, red, red 
North London is red, red, red, red 
North London is red, red, red, red 
Red, red, red, red”

…is how Arsenal’s highly original chant goes, I’ve been informed.

Well, as well as a certain lack of lyrical flair, this ditty is based on a fairly misinformed premise. Tottenham saw off the opposition in 11 boroughs and around 60 postcodes, whereas the supposed rulers of North London managed a measly three boroughs, only twio of which are in the North.

This isn’t to say it’s all doom and gloom for the Gunners – they are the most popular team in 25 of London’s postcode areas. Unfortunately, this leaves them third place in a two-team game, coming behind their north London derby rivals Spurs, and east London’s West Ham.

Still, maybe Arsenal fans can console themselves with the fact it’s just Twitter data – you’re the silent majority, I’m sure.


The City can’t make up its mind

Of course, with its history of being just a bit different from the rest of London, the City couldn’t even decide on a football team to support.

Despite having a population of just 9,000 people, well below even the smallest borough, they manage to support 4 football teams equally: Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham and QPR.

Who else can’t make up their mind? Merton manages to hold together a coalition of warring factions, with equal support for the North London and Manchester Derby teams; whereas Greenwich is slightly less indecisive, and has a direct fight between West Ham and Spurs.

West Ham exists

Aston Villa West Ham ultra, David Cameron rejoice. Despite a spate of fairly average performances in successive Premier Leagues, West Ham dominates the east of the city. The Hammers have majority support in nine London boroughs and nearly a quarter of London’s nearly 250 postcode areas.

Even more surprising is that this feat was managed despite being relegated to the Championship for the 2011-12 season: talk about a recovery.

Curiously, the leafy suburbs of Richmond and Kingston support the team, despite being on the opposite side of the city. Which makes London a sort of West Ham sandwich.

Chelsea doesn’t support Chelsea; Fulham doesn’t support Fulham

One of the interesting quirks of the data is that the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea appears to (just about) support Spurs in more areas than it does Chelsea.

Something fans can take some pride in, however, is that neighbouring Hammersmith and Fulham don’t support their local team either – preferring to opt for Chelsea, even in the areas surrounding Craven Cottage.

The other of the West London teams in the Premier League at the time, QPR, didn’t manage to get a single borough, picking up only 11 postcodes spread across the city.

So much for local pride.

South London doesn’t much like London

Speaking of which, South London doesn’t seem to really support London at all. Both Manchester teams enjoy a dedicated support base across the South, with Man City topping the list in Croydon and Sutton, while Lambeth opts for Man United.

West London is not much more loyal. There, despite pockets of support for London teams, we see support for Man City in Hounslow and Everton in Ealing (I know, I’m surprised too).

A table summarising the full results. 

It doesn’t look like this has much to do with how central you are: 11 out of 12 of the inner London boroughs support local teams (although Greenwich isn’t clear-cut, it’s definitely between Spurs and West Ham), whilst 15 out of 20 of the outer boroughs support London clubs. That’s about 90 per cent of inner boroughs vs 80 per cent of outer boroughs.

More likely is that the proximity to a Premier League team determines both support, and the enthusiasm for London football with which this is associated. The boroughs home to Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, QPR, Tottenham and West Ham all support a London team; so do most of their neighbours. But none of these lay south of the river.

If the Institute were to conduct the study again, we may well find that the inclusion of a South London team gives us a slightly different picture.

 
 
 
 

Does it matter that TfL are renaming White Hart Lane station Tottenham Hotspur?

New White Hart Lane. Image: Getty.

Pretend for a moment that you’re travelling in the London of 1932. You’re taking the Piccadilly Line northbound and alight at Gillespie Road station. The name should be obvious: it’s inscribed in bespoke brown tiling on the platform.

But that 31 October, following an intense campaign by the eponymous football club, the London County Council changed the station’s name to Arsenal (Highbury Hill). The area’s growing association with the name “Arsenal” ended in a lengthy negotiation that changed maps, signs and train tickets alike. Football had acquired so much power that it changed the name of not just a Tube station but an entire suburb, even before the era of Wenger or the Emirates.

Now the spectre of name changes is on the horizon once again. As Tottenham Hotspur FC inches closer to completing its new stadium, the club is clamouring for a renamed Overground station. Despite the fact the new stadium is located on almost exactly the same site as the old just off White Hart Lane, and fans have long been calling the scaffolding-laden mess “New White Hart Lane”, the club’s executive director is adamant that the station’s existing name cannot stand. White Hart Lane station, on the Overground line leaving Liverpool Street, is set to be renamed “Tottenham Hotspur”, at a cost to the club of £14.7m.

Little has been made of the fact that this peculiar PR kerfuffle is tied to Spurs’ failure to convince Nike to sponsor the venue. Some sources have even claimed that the sponsorship is yet to be finalised because it is somehow contingent on the renaming of the Overground station; beyond the ridiculous Johnson-era vanity project that was the Emirates Air Line, it seems improbable that TfL will allow any more corporate-flavoured information pollution. There will be no “Nike Stadium” station on the way to Enfield, much as there is no “Emirates” on the way to Cockfosters, especially if public consultation gets a look in.

The scene of the crime. Image: TfL.

But there’s a problem with the new name, all the same. “White Hart Lane” already means “football stadium”, in the same way Loftus Road or Stamford Bridge do. Changing it to “Tottenham Hotspur” risks opening the floodgates to an “O2 North Greenwich” or a “Virgin Euston” at some point in future, names as banal as there are dystopian. The Greater London Authority has promised to spend the £14.7m fee on community programmes in the local area – but that’s not much money to set the precedent that a private company can mess about with the Tube map.


What’s more, as CityMetric has often observed, there are plenty of station names across London that could do with a tidy up. Picking one that’s perfect already and asking for £14.7m to change it is adding insult to injury. How much would it cost a community group if they asked to change the name of Goodge Street to Fitzrovia? Why does a vast corporate entity backed by international sponsors and thousands of season ticket holders get to set the standard?

Back in Arsenal’s day, changing names on the Tube must have been easy; changes could be accommodated gradually without bothering the every day traveller. But in our world of online information, maps and apps, name changes are rather more complicated.

The question is – if TfL can bring itself to balefully accept this particular proposition, why can’t it accept ours? Why sort out a single non-issue on the Tube Map when you can catch lots of real ones in one go? A day’s pandemonium might just be a price worth paying to fix the Bethnal Greens problem once and for all.