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.

 
 
 
 

“You don’t look like a train buff”: on sexism in the trainspotting community

A female guard on London’s former Metropolitan Railway. Image: Getty.

I am a railway enthusiast. I like looking at trains, I like travelling by train and I like the quirks of the vast number of different train units, transit maps and train operating companies.

I get goosebumps standing on a platform watching my train approach, eyeballing the names of the destinations on the dot matrix display over and over again, straining to hear the tinny departure announcements on the tannoy.  I’m fortunate enough to work on the site of a former railway station that not only houses beautiful old goods sheds, but still has an active railway line running alongside it. You can imagine my colleagues’ elation as I exclaim: “Wow! Look at that one!” for the sixth time that day, as another brilliantly gaudy freight train trundles past.

I am also a woman in my twenties. A few weeks my request to join a railway-related Facebook group was declined because I – and I quote here – “don’t look like a train buff”.

After posting about this exchange on Twitter, my outrage was widely shared. “They should be thrilled to have you!” said one. “What does a train buff look like?!” many others asked.

The answer, of course, is a middle-aged white man with an anorak and notebook. Supposedly, anyway. That’s the ancient stereotype of a “trainspotter”, which sadly shows no sign of waning.

I’m not alone in feeling marginalised in the railway community. Sarah, a railway enthusiast from Bournemouth, says she is used to funny looks when she tells people that she is not only into trains, but an engineer.

She speaks of her annoyance at seeing a poster bearing the phrase: “Beware Rail Enthusiasts Disease: Highly Infectious To Males Of All Ages”. “That did bug me,” she says, “because women can enjoy trains just as much as men.”


Vicki Pipe is best known as being one half of the YouTube sensation All The Stations, which saw her and her partner Geoff Marshall spend 2017 visiting every railway station in Great Britain.

“During our 2017 adventure I was often asked ‘How did your boyfriend persuade you to come along?’” she says. “I think some found it unusual that a woman might be independently interested or excited enough about the railways to spend sixteen weeks travelling to every station on the network.”

Pipe, who earlier this year travelled to all the stations in Ireland and Northern Ireland, is passionate about changing the way in which people think of the railways, including the perception of women in the industry.

“For me it’s the people that make the railways such an exciting place to explore – and many of these are women,” she explains. “Women have historically and continue to play an important part in the railway industry – throughout our journey we met female train drivers, conductors, station staff, signallers and engineers. I feel it is important that more female voices are heard so that women of the future recognise the railways as a place they too can be part of.”

Despite the progress being made, it’s clear there is still a long way to go in challenging stereotypes and proving that girls can like trains, too.

I’m appalled that in 2019 our life choices are still subjected to critique. This is why I want to encourage women to embrace their interests and aspirations – however “nerdy”, or unusual, or untraditionally “female” they may be – and to speak up for things that I was worried to speak about for so long.

We might not change the world by doing so but, one by one, we’ll let others know that we’ll do what we want – because we can.